Wetlands serve an important function in the environment through the protection and maintenance of the ecosystem. However, they are most valued for the flood protection they offer. According to a new study, wetlands may be providing more flood protection than what was previously known.
The study that involved a team of researchers at Swansea University found that wetlands, especially estuarine wetlands, offer more protection against flooding and other such extremities than was previously thought. Wetlands include salt marshes, mangroves, swamps, and more such lands that support a range of diverse species. Eight estuarine wetlands in Wales were studied for the purpose of this research.
It was concluded that estuarine wetlands can reduce the level of water during storms by up to 2 metres in upstream areas. While this seems like a small number, it could reduce damages by 37% and average flood extents by 35% during extreme storms. Given the recent incidents of flash floods across the world, this seems like a significant number to reduce damages.
“Our study shows that coastal wetlands play a crucial role in reducing storm-driven flooding in estuaries. They are nature’s flood defences and we need them now more than ever. Until now, the role of wetlands for coastal defence has been undervalued because of the focus on open coasts. Traditionally, estuaries -where waves tend to be much smaller – have been assumed to be less important, despite containing extensive wetland areas. Our research challenges that idea, showing that focusing on single processes, or even coastal environments, may risk grossly underestimating the true value of our wetlands,” said Dr. Tom Fairchild, lead researcher of this study.
The research found that wetlands can absorb wave energy while reducing the storm surges upwards of the estuary channels. Water surging during storms is slowed down by the estuary edges that offer friction, or drag. At least 22 of the largest cities in the world are based around low-lying estuaries, including London, New York, Calcutta, Venice, Amsterdam, and more.
The results of this study have been published in Environmental Research Letters.
I am a simple writer who wishes to use her skill to create more awareness about the planet that offers us life.