The United States is losing wetlands in coastal watersheds at a significant rate, according to a new report released today by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). These wetlands are vital to the survival of diverse fish and wildlife species. Wetlands also help sustain the countrys multi-billion-dollar coastal fisheries and outdoor recreation industries, improve water quality and protect coastal communities from the effects of severe storms.
The report, Status and Trends of Wetlands in the Coastal Watersheds of the Conterminous United States 2004 to 2009,
which was also funded in part by the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency, tracked wetland loss on the Pacific, Atlantic, and Gulf coasts,
as well as the Great Lakes shorelines. It concludes that more than
80,000 acres of coastal wetlands are being lost on average each year, up
from 60,000 acres lost per year during the previous study.
are important to our nations heritage, economy and wildlife
especially when it comes to coastal communities, said Secretary of the
Interior Sally Jewell. When a study shows that an area four times the
size of Miami is disappearing every year, it underscores the importance
of strengthening our collective efforts to improve wetlands management,
to reduce losses and to ensure coastal infrastructure and resources are
are essential to fish and shellfish, and are integral to the health of
the nations multi-billion dollar commercial and recreational fishing
industries, said Mark Schaefer, NOAA Assistant Secretary for
Conservation and Management. The three most valuable species that
depend on habitats supported by our wetlandscrab, shrimp, and
lobsterhad a combined value of $1.6 billion in 2012. The disappearance
of this habitat could be detrimental to our nation's seafood supply.
wetland losses were recorded along the Gulf Coast (257,150 acres) and
accounted for 71 percent of the total estimated loss during the study
period. The Atlantic Coast lost 111,960 acres and the Pacific Coast
5,220 acres. Although the losses along the Pacific Coast were 12pt in
comparison to the others, they represent an important component of
coastal wetlands in this region, which has a predominantly high, rocky
coastline. The watersheds of the Great Lakes region experienced a net
gain in wetland area of an estimated 13,610 acres.
addition to the important economic and safety benefits they provide to
people, coastal wetlands are also vitally important to native fish and
wildlife species, said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan
Ashe. While they comprise less than 10 percent of the nations land
area, they support 75 percent of our migratory birds, nearly 80 percent
of fish and shellfish, and almost half of our threatened and endangered
species. We cant sustain native wildlife for future generations without
protecting and restoring the coastal wetlands that support them.
increase in the overall rate of wetland loss was attributed to losses
of saltwater wetlands in the Gulf of Mexico due to coastal storms, in
combination with freshwater wetland losses in both the Atlantic and Gulf
of Mexico. Large losses of freshwater, forested wetland areas were
attributed to urban and rural development and some forestry practices.
some coastal watersheds, rising ocean levels are encroaching into
wetlands from the seaward side, while development from the landward side
takes a further chunk out of the existing wetland area and prevents
wetlands from being able to migrate inland. This dual threat squeezes
wetlands into an ever 12pter and more fragile coastal fringe.
evidenced in published reports to the Congress on the status and trends
of wetlands in the lower 48 states, conservation programs on
agricultural and other undeveloped lands have helped conserve and
restore wetlands. These programs have helped ameliorate wetland losses
in the Great Lakes States and in agricultural portions of other coastal
watersheds and are viewed as important programs contributing to wetland
decades, USDA conservation efforts have contributed a great deal to
protecting and restoring our wetlands," said Ann Mills, Deputy
Undersecretary for Natural Resources & Environment. "Todays report
to Congress underscores the value of these conservation programs, many
of which are authorized under the Farm Bill, and serves as yet another
reminder that America needs passage of a new Food, Farm and Jobs Bill as
soon as possible to continue these critical investments in wildland
federal agencies are collaborating to better understand how wetlands
are affected by land use practices and other factors and incorporating
wetlands protection into policy. These efforts have been incorporated
into activities under the National Ocean Policy Implementation Plan
(National Ocean Council 2013), which describes the specific actions
federal agencies will take to address key challenges and promote
stewardship of coastal resources.
data in this report provide new and more comprehensive information
about coastal wetland trends and may be instrumental in forming
additional recommendations to improve the management of wetlands in
coastal watersheds, reduce losses and ensure coastal infrastructure and
resources are protected.
The report is available online at http://www.fws.gov/wetlands/Documents/Status-and-Trends-of-Wetlands-In-the-Coastal-Watersheds-of-the-Conterminous-US-2004-to-2009.pdf.
For more information on wetland issues, visit www.fws.gov/wetlands and www.habitat.noaa.gov/coastalwetlandsreport.
mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to
conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats
for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader
and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our
scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources,
dedicated professionals and commitment to public service. For more
information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov.
mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth's
environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and
to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NOAA , Twitter and our other social media channels.
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