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Experts Expect Expansion of Hudson River Wetlands as the Sea Level Rises

Jun 30, 2016 03:28 AM EDT

Experts from the Cornell University and Scenic Hudson expect a 33 percent increase of intertidal wetlands in the New York's Hudson River estuary, despite the rising seas levels caused by the climate change.

"In other parts of the world, sea level rise has led to net losses of tidal wetland and to permanent inundation," said Magdeline Laba, Cornell senior research associate in soil and crop sciences, in a statement.

Intertidal wetland is an area along a shoreline that is visible during low tide but submerged underwater during high tide. This type of wetland has the ability to support its own ecosystem, making it a valuable habitat for some fish, animals and birds.

A study regarding the effects of sea level rise on the resilience and migration of tidal wetlands along the Hudson River suggests that wetland areas along the Hudson River will increase from 7,000 to approximately 8,100 to 10,900 acres. The study was published in the journal PLOS ONE.

At present, the Hudson River estuary hosts one of the largest concentrations of freshwater tidal wetlands in the Northeast, stretching 150 miles from Manhattan to Troy, Albany. About 80 percent of the river's tidal wetlands are fresh and well beyond the reach of the salty Atlantic Ocean.

For the study, researchers analyzed wetland conversions and shoreline changes in tidal habitats using the Sea Level Affecting Marshes Model, or SLAMM, which simulates regional- or local-scale changes in tidal wetland habitats in response to the rise of sea level.

Researchers then simulated the estuarial changes created by rising Atlantic Ocean waters entering at the Hudson's mouth in 20-year interval.

The researchers noted a widespread conversion of high marsh habitat (driest) to low marsh (wet), tidal flat or permanent water inundation. Based on 0.7 centimeters increase in the river annually since 2000, researchers estimated a rise in the river's water ranging from 28 centimeters (less than a foot) to nearly 1.9 meters (6 feet) over the next 80 years.

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