June 18, 2020. Life / Nature’s Solutions to Climate Change
Cyril F. Kormos, Shyla Raghav, Carlos Manuel Rodriguez, Russell A. Mittermeier, Brendan Mackey, Wes Sechrest
Tidal salt marshes are the link that connects the freshwater and ocean habitats found along the coasts of every continent except Antarctica.
Their unique coastal location allows saltmarshes to provide many benefits. They improve coastal water quality and serve as habitat for a unique biodiversity including crabs, shrimp, fish, and thousands of migratory birds. By combining large areas with their lush vegetation and muddy soils, saltmarshes reduce the impact of waves and storms, protecting the shoreline from erosion and flooding, and ultimately, protecting humans living in coastal regions.
Their vegetation continuously absorbs carbon in the form of carbon dioxide through the natural process of photosynthesis and stores it in leaves, stems, and roots. Combining plant photosynthesis with the constant trapping and storing of carbon in the soil makes saltmarshes one of the most efficient ecosystems in sequestering carbon—up to 2.2 tonnes of carbon per hectare per year.
When degraded or destroyed, saltmarshes can release all the carbon stored in their plants and soils back into the atmosphere, contributing to climate change.
Communities are beginning to understand the critical value of saltmarshes and are increasingly protecting and restoring these coastal areas. In the San Francisco Bay of northern California, saltmarshes have been restored to reduce the impact of flooding events on communities and provide a line of defense against sea level rise. Similarly, in the Wadden Sea UNESCO World Heritage site in Europe, saltmarshes are expanding at a rate of 200 hectares per year due to their protected status.
This is an excerpt from the CEMEX Nature Series Book “Nature’s Solutions to Climate Change” (2019)