Imagine if there was a tool that absorbed and cleaned stormwater, minimized the impacts of waves during storms, buffered us from storm surges, sequestered carbon dioxide – a leading greenhouse gas – all while promoting biodiversity and providing habitat for economically valuable species. You’d probably think that we should be investing in that tool, right? Well, that tool exists today and is all around us: our wetlands.
Wetlands provide all of these benefits to us yet – like our communities – they are at risk from the impacts of climate change, including sea level rise. Wetlands by nature are adaptive. With enough time and space, they can move or migrate to avoid being drowned by higher seas. But unfortunately in many places, sea levels seem to be rising at a faster rate than wetlands can adapt. To make matters more complicated, we’ve developed so much around our wetlands that many of them have no room to move. Their migration path is cut off by roads and buildings and other hard infrastructure. So, in a region that has already lost around 2/3 of our historic wetlands, sea level rise – along with pollution – threatens our remaining tracts of wetlands, which presents an even greater threat to us.
At our first ever Climate Week NYC event, RPA pulled together a panel of wetlands, community planning and design experts to consider this issue, through the lens of RPA’s latest report The New Shoreline. The report maps out the pathways wetlands can take – if we plan appropriately – and offers some policy and planning recommendations to ensure we make room for wetlands. Be sure to check out our report and let us know what you think.