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Coastal Wetland Restoration: One of the Smartest Investments We Can Make

April 16, 2014

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Volunteers help restore oyster reefs in Alabama. Photo: © Erika Nortemann/TNC
Volunteers help restore oyster reefs in Alabama. Photo: © Erika Nortemann/TNC

Perceptions of wetlands may have changed through history, but the trend remains the same. They’re disappearing, and fast.

For centuries, wetlands were places of disease and doom – swamps to be filled in, leveled, paved over. The habitat disappeared.

By the early 1900s, conservationists recognized them as places important for wildlife – particularly waterfowl – and outdoor recreation. Later, environmentalists realized they served as nature’s water filters.

And still wetlands disappeared, particularly in coastal areas.

Perhaps that’s because we are still undervaluing their considerable services.

That’s the compelling argument made by Mark Tercek and Jane Lubchenco in Ensia, a magazine showcasing environmental solutions in action.

Tercek, President and CEO of The Nature Conservancy, and Lubchenco, former adminstrator with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and professor of marine ecology at Oregon State, call coastal wetland restoration “one of the smartest investments we can make.”

The authors note:

This isn’t just an environmental tragedy; it’s also an economic one. Coastal wetlands and other coastal habitats provide buffers against storm surges, filter pollution, sequester carbon that would otherwise contribute to climate change, and serve as nurseries to help replenish depleted fish, crab and shrimp populations. The result is reduced flooding, healthier waterways, and increased fishing and recreational opportunities.

Read the Ensia article to learn why investing in coastal restoration can pay off handsomely, for our economy, for human well-being and for our health and safety.

Opinions expressed on Cool Green Science and in any corresponding comments are the personal opinions of the original authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Nature Conservancy.
Matt Miller

Matt Miller is a senior science writer for the Conservancy. He writes features and blogs about the conservation research being conducted by the Conservancy’s 550 scientists. He has served on the national board of directors of the Outdoor Writers Association of America, and has published widely on conservation, nature and outdoor sports. More from Matt

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2 comments

  1. Wetlands have never stopped changing. It is the perception of human beings that seems to be stuck. We lock on to an idea of how an element of nature is “supposed to be” and then we work against evolution of natural process to try to achieve “restoration”. On the Louisiana coast what needs to be restored is the larger set of natural processes. Dumping Christmas trees in the marsh and building concrete and steel structures in the wetlands is not restoration. We need to work toward getting our culture out of the way and letting nature take over.

  2. […] Coastal wetland restoration: One of the smartest investments we can make:  “Perceptions of wetlands may have changed through history, but the trend remains the same. They’re disappearing, and fast.  For centuries, wetlands were places of disease and doom – swamps to be filled in, leveled, paved over. The habitat disappeared.  By the early 1900s, conservationists recognized them as places important for wildlife – particularly waterfowl – and outdoor recreation. Later, environmentalists realized they served as nature’s water filters.  And still wetlands disappeared, particularly in coastal areas.  Perhaps that’s because we are still undervaluing their considerable services. … “  Read more from the Cool Green Science blog here: Coastal Wetland Restoration: One of the Smartest Investments We Can Make […]