Sustainability Environment

Virginia could lose 42 percent of its tidal wetlands by 2100 due to sea level rise, study finds

Not only do tidal wetlands provide essential wildlife habitat, but they also serve as flood and drought mitigation.
Scientist measuring water depth to install water level data loggers in a coastal wetland to understand inundation period and impact on ecosystem services. (iStock)

Story at a glance


  • A new study published in Environmental Research Communications says that if nothing is done to curb the effects of climate change, Virginia could lose 42 percent of its tidal wetlands by 2100.  

  • The loss of tidal wetlands would be the result of rapidly rising sea levels.  

  • Not only would this loss be harmful for wildlife, but people would end up paying more for flood damages.  

A huge portion of Virginia’s tidal wetlands could disappear if global sea levels continue to rise at their current rate.  

Tidal wetlands provide numerous environmental benefits like providing a habitat for fisheries, capturing and storing carbon dioxide and acting as a defense against coastal storms and erosion.  

But many tidal wetlands are at risk of disappearing due to the effects of climate change. And while tidal wetlands can change in size by growing vertically and moving further inland, if sea levels rise too rapidly wetlands can essentially “drown” in place, according to Virginia Mercury.  


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A new study published in the journal Environmental Research Communications states that Virginia could lose up to 42 percent of its tidal wetlands by 2100 if nothing is done to curb the effects of climate change.  

And all of that loss will be costly, with one study claiming that losing a hectare, or roughly two football fields, of wetlands could cost the country an average of $1,900 extra a year in flood damages.  

In the past two decades, Earth has lost more than 1,540 square miles of mangroves, tidal flats and tidal marshes, according to a study published in the journal Science last month. That is roughly the size of the Spanish island Mallorca.  


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