Biosphere Daily Earth Science Environment Repost

Coastal wetlands

Shallow, marshy waters around the edges of our oceans are vital habitats for the biosphere. In these coastal wetlands lie the spawning grounds for many species of fish and other sea life. Also, some fish species stay as they mature, and the adults live and feed in these habitats. Birds and mammals also call wetland ecosystems home. The mix of water and grassy marshes provides both food and protection for the wetland inhabitants. However, these coastal habitats serve another vital function as zones of carbon storage.

Coastal wetlands account for only two percent of the earth’s ocean surface, but they capture more than 50 percent of the carbon absorbed by the oceans each year. Once captured, the carbon is then efficiently sequestered in the wetland sediments. Wetlands are 10 to 100 times more efficient at carbon sequestration than inland forests.

Dynamic change

Part of the elegance of wetlands is their dynamic adaptation to a changing environment. As sea levels rise, the wetlands keep pace and continue their role as a sustainable habitat for many species. The wetlands will also continue serving as valuable carbon storage areas, helping to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and oceans. 

The wetlands act as a damper on the build-up of greenhouse gases and global warming. They can’t stop the rising levels of CO2 in our atmosphere, but they can slow down the process.

The fact that wetlands organically build and keep pace with sea-level rise is critical. As the marshes grow, they thicken, and the volume carbon in long term storage grows. But, the success of this dynamic system depends on the conservation and protection of these fragile habitats.

Protect the wetlands

Overdevelopment and uncontrolled commercial or agricultural activity adjacent to the wetlands create significant damage. Dikes and other structures for control of water flow alter the hydrodynamics of the system and make it less effective. Likewise, too much agricultural runoff into the wetlands leads to damaging nitrogen pollution and loss of efficiency. Lastly, the infill of the marshes to create new land permanently destroys wetland areas. 

Pessimistic assessments of climate change sometimes overlook the things humans can do to protect the earth’s environment during a period of rapid climate change. Conserving, protecting and restoring wetland habitats is a positive step that is within reach of local, state, and federal government policies. It is a step that is also within reach of individuals who are looking for positive solutions.


Ocean Acidification (Source: ArcheanWeb) – Also:

Florida Everglades, not what it used to be (Source: ArcheanWeb) – Also:


Wetlands will keep up with sea level rise to offset climate change ( Emily Greenhalgh) –

Feature Photo: Coastal wetlands at Parker River National Wildlife Refuge in Massachusetts. Credit: Kelly Fike/USFWS. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. (Modified)

William House
William is an earth scientist and writer with an interest in providing the science "backstory" for breaking environmental, earth science, and climate change news.