Changes in rainfall and temperature are predicted to transform wetlands in the Gulf of Mexico and around the world within the century, a new study from the USGS and the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley concludes. Sea-level rise isn’t the only aspect of climate change expected to affect coastal wetlands: changes in rainfall and temperature are predicted to transform wetlands in the Gulf of Mexico and around the world within the century. These changes will take place regardless of sea-level rise, a new study from the US Geological Survey and the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley concludes. Such changes are expected to affect the plant communities found in coastal wetlands. For example, some salt marshes are predicted to become mangrove forests, while others could become salty mud flats. These shifts in vegetation could affect the ecological and economic services wetlands provide to the communities that rely on them. “Coastal wetlands are an invaluable resource,” said Christopher Gabler, a former USGS scientist, currently an assistant professor at the Texas university, and lead author of the study, published January 23 in Nature Climate Change. “They protect surrounding communities from storms and coastal erosion, support fisheries and wildlife, purify water pollution, and help prevent dead zones from forming in the Gulf.” It’s unknown exactly how these services would be affected as wetlands transform in response to climate change, which has many different facets. Though studies on climate change impacts in wetlands have typically addressed sea-level rise, this research looked at aspects of climate change that have received little attention.
From US Geological Survey Photo Credit John Vlahakis