Rate Of Coastal Wetlands Loss Has Sped Up, U.S. Study Says
The U.S. lost an average of 80,000 acres of coastal wetlands from 2004 to 2009, according to the latest data published by federal agencies. More than 70 percent of the estimated loss came in the Gulf of Mexico; nationwide, most of the loss was blamed on development that incurred on freshwater wetlands."The losses of these vital wetlands were 25 percent greater than during the previous six years," NPR's Elizabeth Shogren reports for our Newscast unit. She also notes that the loss equals "about seven football fields every hour."The figures come from a recent report titled Status and Trends of Wetlands in the Coastal Watersheds of the Conterminous United States. For their study, researchers examined 2,614 plots that were chosen at random, with each plot representing 4 square miles.U.S. coastal wetlands are concentrated in four areas — the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic coast, the Great Lakes, and the Pacific coast. Here's how the study estimates they fared from 2004-2009:
- Gulf of Mexico: Net loss of 257,150 acres
- Atlantic Coast: Net loss of 111,960 acres
- Pacific Coast: Net loss of 5,220 acres
- Great Lakes: Net gain of 13,610 acres
"Wetland types found in coastal watersheds include salt marshes, bottomland hardwood swamps, fresh marshes, mangrove swamps, and shrubby depressions known in the southeast United States as 'pocosins.' Coastal wetlands cover about 40 million acres and make up 38 percent of the total wetland acreage in the conterminous United States. Eighty-one percent of coastal wetlands in the conterminous United States are located in the Southeast."
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