Sea level rise, sediment starvation and other environmental woes pose increasing threats to coastal wetlands worldwide. But a massive new study could help stem these losses by giving scientists a broader understanding of which wetlands are most at risk, and why. The study, which assessed wetland distribution and resilience in hundreds of U.S. estuaries, found that it's all a matter of scale. As the researchers took more of an estuary's surrounding geography into account, the depth, size, shape and latitude of the estuary became increasingly important predictors for determining the extent of wetlands it could support, said Anna Braswell, a Ph.D. graduate of Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment, who conducted the research as part of her 2017 dissertation. The shape and orientation of the nearby coastline and the depth of near-shore waters mattered, too. And the amount of replenishing sediment being carried into the estuary by rivers or incoming tides became a key indicator of marshes' resilience to change.
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