Spring 2016 – Rising Waters – A View From the Marsh – On January 23rd, the southern Jersey shore experienced a strong blast of winter, in a winter that had largely been noted for unseasonably warm weather. Yet again, our communities were battered with storm tides that sadly flooded many homes and businesses. The beaches and dunes, our front line of defense in these storms, did their job and protected the ocean front homes. However, they again experienced significant erosion in the process. Unfortunately, these storm flooding events are becoming more and more common.
The View from the Tower is changing. I see change. The marsh is now routinely flooded over several high tide cycles each month. Maybe you have noticed it too when you are driving on the causeways to the islands. Maybe you notice that your floating dock, if you are fortunate enough to have one, now floats higher than level sometimes. These are all visual evidence that sea level has risen. If we look at long-term records of measured sea level in our area, the trend is clear. Sea level in southern NJ has risen more than 6” since the 1980’s. Yep – 6”. This isn’t a model or a prediction. It’s an actual measurement.
To some that may not seem like a lot, but the reality is that 6” of rise is dramatic. It means that during storms, the water level is already ½ a foot higher before the storm tides come. On the beach, it means that the water already comes up higher on the beach and closer to the dunes. In the meadows, it means that the marsh has already absorbed a lot of water, before the storm tides come. Along the Bayfront, it means that water is already 6” higher on the bulkheads that are helping to prevent flooding of our communities.
At The Wetlands Institute, we are working every day to assess the health of our marshes and their ability to continue to help protect our communities. We are working to test measures to help the marshes cope with rising water levels and to educate our community about how they are changing. We are working to restore animal populations that are important to helping maintain balance in these stressed ecosystems. We are working to help everyone understand and appreciate the importance of these natural resources.
Our coastal ecosystems face constant threats and we work tirelessly to help ensure they are healthy and here for generations to experience and enjoy. If you want to learn more, view my TEDX talk or the Institute video – both are on our homepage wetlandsinstiute.org. The support of our friends and donors is crucial to enabling the work we do. Thank you for being a part of our journey as we continue to build excellence.