Marshes can rise to meet flood risks if we don’t disrupt mud flows


Climate Central reports: In the race to keep their verdure heads above rising seas, marshes that protect coastal regions from floods, storms and erosion harbor the botanical equivalents of nitro boosters: rapid growth fueled by climate-changing pollution.

The same greenhouse gas that’s doing most to warm the planet and uplift its seas can also work as a fertilizer. New research suggests that rising levels of heat-trapping carbon dioxide in the atmosphere could help communities of marsh plants grow quickly enough to keep up with changes that would otherwise inundate them.

“The fertilization effect from increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere definitely enhances marsh-plant biomass functioning,” said Katherine Ratliff, a PhD candidate at Duke University who led modeling-based research published last month in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The findings suggest that mud shortages — not growth rates — could be the greatest challenges for marshes as they strive to grow quickly enough to keep up with rising seas. Sea levels have risen 8 inches since the late 1800s, with several more feet expected this century. The fostering of coastal ecosystems is considered a key defense strategy against future flooding. [Continue reading…]

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