The Academy of Natural Sciences investigates effects of climate change on Delaware tidal marshes

04/13/05

PHILADELPHIA--What will happen to birds, plants, insects, fish, other animals and drinking water when more salt water mixes in with freshwater in the tidal marshes of the Delaware Estuary as the predicted result of climate change?

That's what The Academy of Natural Sciences has begun investigating thanks to a prestigious $700,000 Science to Achieve Results grant from the Environmental Protection Agency. The STAR funding competition supports research to assess the potential consequences of climate change on ecosystem function.

With the 3-year grant, Drs. Melanie Vile and David Velinsky of the Academy's Patrick Center for Environmental Research are assessing how the ecologically important tidal freshwater marshes of the Delaware Estuary are likely to respond to the predicted rise in sea level and the resulting intrusion of salt water into freshwater environments. A rise in sea level is one of the most severe threats to coastal environments such as the Delaware. Current estimates indicate that as the sea rises, saltwater will move upstream by between 6 and 12 miles.

Vile and Velinsky will study the potential consequences of this increased salinity on tidal marshes. Tidal marshes provide many valuable ecosystem services. They buffer storm and floodwaters, slow shoreline erosion, absorb excess nutrients before they reach oceans and estuaries, and provide nursery habitat for fishes.

Source: Eurekalert & others

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