Why We Protect Coastal Wetlands


Pescadero Marsh Natural Preserve

Coastal wetlands are too valuable to lose. They filter our water, help protect coastal communities from floods and sea level rise, and preserve biodiversity. That is why Green Foothills speaks up for protection of wetlands and the wildlife that depends on them whenever development is proposed that may encroach into required buffer zones.

Wetlands Provide Nature-Based Solutions

Coastal wetlands are stretches of land near the beach or the Bay that are saturated with water either permanently or seasonally. Sometimes called marshes, swamps, or bogs, wetlands provide tremendous benefits for coastal ecosystems and people.

Benefits provided by wetlands include:

  • Clean water. Wetlands act as natural water purifiers, as they filter sediment and absorb polluted runoff from highways, parking lots and other paved surfaces. Where land is disturbed by grading, plowing, or off-road vehicles, wetlands can trap and filter runoff containing fertilizers, pesticides, sediment, and other impurities, helping maintain healthy rivers, bays, and beaches.
  • Flood and storm protection. Wetlands function as natural sponges, absorbing and slowing floodwaters, thus helping protect people, property, and agricultural land from flood damage and preventing erosion.
  • Climate change adaptation. Increased temperatures, extreme weather, and rising sea levels pose challenges to wetlands, particularly where salt water may inundate shallow freshwater marshes. Fortunately, many wetlands are able to adapt and even thrive – if they are given enough room to move inland as sea levels rise.
  • Wildlife. Wetlands provide homes for thousands of species of plants, fish, birds, and other wildlife.

Although wetlands typically are associated with low-lying areas along the coast, they can also be found on dry hillsides where seeps and springs are able to support wetland habitats.

A Disappearing Resource

Wetlands were considered wastelands for many years, and people “reclaimed” them by draining, filling, plowing, and even paving them over. Since the 1850s, 90 percent of California’s coastal wetlands have been destroyed. Fortunately, in the Coastal Zone, strong policies now require their protection and where feasible, their restoration.

More Articles About Wetlands by Green Foothills

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