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Image: Brian Bill, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
by Amy Lupica, ODP Staff Writer
A new study has found that half of the nation’s tidal marshes are at risk of being destroyed by sea-level rise, most of them along the southern coasts of the contiguous U.S.
Now, members of the Gullah/Geechee Nation, whose one million residents live along coastal areas stretching from Jacksonville, North Carolina, to Jacksonville, Florida, are fighting to preserve these critical habitats and the cultural value they’ve provided for generations.
Why This Matters: Salt marshes have a reputation as smelly and swampy, but they provide an essential service to our oceans and the greater environment. 75% of regional fish species rely on salt marshes at some point in their lifecycle for food, refuge, and nursing grounds. They’re also valuable as buffers against flooding and act as sponges that soak up floodwaters and filter runoff.
The Gullah/Geechee Nation hopes to protect and restore their salt marshes as well. “The waterways are sacred to us and provide our food. Every native Gullah/Geechee grew up breathing in the smell of pluff mud as we proceeded out to get the family meals of fish, shrimp, oysters, clams, and blue crabs,” said Chieftess and Head of State, Queen Quet. “Saltmarsh is not something that we simply go through or to; it’s part of our family, too. Our lives depend on it.”
A Sinking Feeling: Research from Holmquist et al. found that northerly marshes and southerly marshes differed in vulnerability to sea-level rise. Using tide gauge data, soil formation rates, and local maps of water level, elevation, and land cover, they found that Northern tidal marshes were less likely to migrate inland due to sea-level rise. Meanwhile, southern marshes were less likely to collect and maintain enough soil to keep up with rising tides. Researchers say they hope that these findings can help officials prioritize and plan future conservation efforts.
Queen Quet says that the project is just what the doctor ordered. “The initiative is a perfect fit for the Gullah/Geechee Nation! It suits us like a custom-made garment or a personally crafted vessel that will finally allow us to get other folks to navigate our coast with us in a way that is in harmony with our cultural traditions,” she told Pew Trusts. “I’m looking forward to bringing Gullah/Geechee traditional knowledge into the planning process, but even more than that, I’m looking forward to putting on my hip boots and stepping out into the marsh with my Gullah/Geechee famlee.”
UNESCO has launched a new program to collect, analyze, and monitor environmental DNA (AKA eDNA) to better understand biodiversity at its marine World Heritage sites. Scientists will collect genetic material from fish cells, mucus, and waste across multiple locations along with eDNA from soil, water, and air. The two-year project will help experts assess […]
It’s about time we had a conversation about the birds and the bees…or in this case, the otters and the seagrass. A new study found that the ecological relationship between sea otters and the seagrass fields where they make their home is spurring the rapid reproduction of the plants. Otters dig up about 5% of […]
By Amy Lupica, ODP Daily Editor An abandoned oil tanker off the coast of Yemen is deteriorating rapidly, and experts say that a hull breach could have far-reaching environmental impacts and threaten millions of people’s access to food and water supplies. The FSO SAFER tanker holds 1.1 million barrels of oil — more than four […]
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