Rhode Island is more likely to lose than gain salt marshes due to the rate of rising sea levels. Those are the findings of a recent analysis by the Coastal Resources Management Council.
The CRMC unveiled maps last fall that show how salt marshes may respond to different sea level rise scenarios in the future. The project is called the Sea Level Affecting Marshes Model (SLAMM) maps. Coastal policy analyst Jim Boyd said the agency recently summarized the project’s findings.
“What we found is that we could see 13 percent, 52 percent, and 87 percent coastal wetland loss under 1, 3, and 5 feet of sea level rise, respectively,” said Boyd.
He cautions that the results are optimistic. Within the next year, the CRMC plans to rerun its analysis with more recent data on salt marshes. Boyd said those results may paint an even more bleak picture for coastal wetlands, which play important roles as storm buffers, natural water filters, and nurseries for fish and birds.
“So the bottom line being, we're likely to see a net loss of coastal wetlands in the future rather than a net gain,” said Boyd.
The maps and its findings are meant to serve as planning tools for the state and its 21 coastal communities. That way, they can keep salt marshes in mind when they plan to build new roads or buildings.
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