Friday, December 21, 2012

Gifts from nature: Storm protection

Extensive damages from Hurricane Sandy – and Tropical Storm Irene in 2011 – have stirred many discussions on how to best protect our property from future storms. Some of those discussions include protections built in by Mother Nature.

Coastal Wetlands at Parker River National Wildlife Refuge in Newburyport, MA.
Credit: Kelly Fike/USFWS.

During this season of holiday giving, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would like to take time and reflect on the gifts we receive throughout the year from Mother Nature. Gifts of Nature are treasures to behold and wonders to be thankful for. 

The storm protection offered by Mother Nature comes from wetlands, marshes, reefs and other natural buffers from storms:

  • The extensive root systems of marsh vegetation can help lower damage to property by withstanding brief storm surges and providing a buffer between waves and shoreline or upland areas. 
  • Wetlands and marshes function like big sponges, absorbing floodwaters and slowly releasing them. 
  • These areas also stabilize shoreline and channels from high erosion. 
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s 2009 report on wetlands reflects a continuous but slowing decline in all types of wetlands over time. The net wetland loss was estimated to be 62,300 acres between 2004 and 2009, bringing the nation’s total wetlands acreage to just over 110 million acres in the continental U.S. In the Northeast, areas of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and upstate New York experienced the highest rate of freshwater wetland loss between those years. 

Earlier this week, when we wrote about healthy waters, we referenced the important role of wetlands in that system. When you're thinking about that new year resolution for healthy waters, consider helping wetlands too!

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