New research has found that almost all of the world’s salt marshes will have disappeared by 2100.
The new study is the work of the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL), and shows that by 2100 almost 90% of salt marshes will be gone. The latest study is a collaboration between scientists from the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
The findings are based on a 50-year research project studying the Great Sippewissett Marsh in Falmouth, Massachusetts. Since 1971, researchers have mapped the vegetative cover and experimented on small plots of marsh to see the effects of increased nitrogen on the marshes species.
Due to the length of the study, the researchers have also been able to determine the effects of rising sea levels caused by climate change on the marsh.
According to the lead author of the study and MBL Distinguished Scientist Ivan Valiela:
“Places like Great Sippewissett Marsh will likely become shallow inlets by the turn of the century. Even under conservative sea level estimates … more than 90% of the salt marshes of the world will likely be submerged and disappear or be diminished by the end of the century. This is not a prediction from isolated scientists worried about little details. Major changes are going to be taking place on the surface of the Earth that will change the nature of coastal environments.”
“At some point, if sea level continues to increase at the rates that we anticipate, there will even be no more room for the low marsh plants. They’re just going to be too submerged to survive. This was an experiment that started looking at one ecological control (nitrogen), and then because of the longevity of the project, we were able to add new knowledge about this major accelerating agent of global change—global sea level rise.”
While MBL Research Scientist Javier Lloret added:
“Sea level rise is the most important threat to salt marshes. We really need to figure out what’s going to happen to these ecosystems and learn how to prevent some of the losses from happening or try to adapt to them, so marshes can continue to play these important roles for nature as well as humans.”
You can find the original research here.