How useful are natural habitats like salt marshes and oyster reefs in defending coasts from storm surges and storm waves? Henry Fountain of The New York Times reported on that question today in the Times’ weekly Science section, extensively quoting Nature Conservancy marine scientists Nicole Maher and Mike Beck.
The consensus from experts in the article: Natural habitats have at best a limited value in blunting huge storm surges, but are effective at wave attenuation and can play an important part in a coastal risk reduction strategy. As Mike Beck puts it in the piece:
“What you’re really hoping is that those natural habitats over all are contributing to reduced erosion and flooding from smaller, higher-frequency events.”
“It’s important to recognize that all of the actions we’re talking about are steps in risk reduction. There’s no one solution. Natural habitats are contributing a part to that reduction, and that’s really important.”