Wetland Dieback

July 14, 2007 at 4:04 pm (environment, frightening things) (, )

Over the past ten years, lots of urban wetland environments have suffered. But the increasing rate at which these marshes have continued to die, and the problem has continued to spread, is startling.

“We need to find out the cause sooner than later,” said Fred Mushacke, a marine biologist with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. “We’re losing wetlands at a rate of half an acre per year in Cedar Beach alone. In Jamaica Bay, it’s 44 acres per year.

“If those rates get worse, we’re going to reach a tipping point, and then there could be a mass die-off.”

These habitats harbor necessary links in the food chain and provide natural services like water filtering and storm buffering. We can’t afford to lose them.

Salt marshes are also vital sources of food, Mr. Mushacke said. Each acre of spartina grass produces four tons of organic matter, which works its way into the food chain through algae until big fish are eating little fish and birds are eating the fish.

“The tidal wetlands are the most important and naturally occurring ecological unit in the world,” Mr. Mushacke said. “If you lose four tons of organic material per acre per year, that translates into tons of fish and shellfish you’re losing.”

Reasons for the dieback are so far unknown. Hypothesized causes include fungi, kinds of worms, and of course, global warming.

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1 Comment

  1. New York’s Marshes Destined for an Early Death « Our Descent Into Madness said,

    […] An earlier, related post here. […]

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