Environmental Protection

NOAA Analysis Documents Coastal Wetlands and Forest Loss

The agency found that between 1996 and 2011, 64,975 square miles in coastal regions -- an area larger than the state of Wisconsin -- experienced changes in land cover.

NOAA announced that nationwide mapping by its Coastal Services Center showed 64,975 square miles in coastal regions -- an area larger than the state of Wisconsin -- experienced changes in land cover between 1996 and 2011. The changes include wetlands and forest cover losses, with development a major contributing factor.

This affected 8.2 percent of the nation's ocean and Great Lakes coastal regions. The report identified a variety of land cover changes that can intensify climate change risks, such as loss of coastal barriers to sea level rise and storm surge. "Land cover maps document what's happening on the ground. By showing how that land cover has changed over time, scientists can determine how these changes impact our plant’s environmental health," said Nate Herold, a NOAA physical scientist who directs the mapping effort at the center, which is located in Charleston, S.C.

The findings mirror similar changes in coastal wetland land cover loss reported in the November 2013 report, "Status and Trends of Wetlands in the Coastal Watersheds of the Conterminous United States 2004 to 2009," which was published by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA.

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