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Marshlands across the UK could VANISH by 2100 due to sea-level rise

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Marshlands across the UK could VANISH by 2100 due to sea-level rise

Marshlands in the UK could start to disappear in a little over 20 years due to rapid rises in sea levels, scientists have warned.

Durham University researchers estimate that marshes in the south east of England could start to disappear from the year 2040, and across all of the UK by 2100. 

Studying samples from sediments, experts have tracked sea levels over the past 10,000 years to study how changes have affected salt marshes. 

The lasting effect of ice removal since the end of the last Ice Age means most of Scotland is rising and southern England is subsiding, which explains the difference in timescales. 

Researchers claim the disappearance of marshlands around the UK could put coastal cities at risk of devastating floods.  

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Marshlands, like this one in Norfolk, could start to disappear in a little over 20 years due to rapid rises in sea levels. Studying samples from sediments, experts have tracked sea levels over the past 10,000 years to study how changes have affected salt marshes

Marshlands, like this one in Norfolk, could start to disappear in a little over 20 years due to rapid rises in sea levels. Studying samples from sediments, experts have tracked sea levels over the past 10,000 years to study how changes have affected salt marshes

Marshlands, like this one in Norfolk, could start to disappear in a little over 20 years due to rapid rises in sea levels. Studying samples from sediments, experts have tracked sea levels over the past 10,000 years to study how changes have affected salt marshes

The study, published in Nature Communications, is based on data from 800 salt-marsh soil cores and shows that rising sea levels over the last 10,000 years has led to increased water-logging of the salt marshes, killing vegetation that protects them from erosion and resulting in the marshes retreating landwards.

‘By 2100, if we continue upon a high-emissions trajectory, essentially all British salt marshes will face a high risk of loss,’ said study co-author Robert E. Kopp, a professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Rutgers-New Brunswick.

‘Reducing emissions significantly increase the odds that salt marshes will survive.’

Salt marshes are coastal wetlands that are flooded and drained by salt water brought in by the tides and can be found along the British coast.

They are a transitional area between water and land and are home to delicate ecosystems.

They also protect coastal areas from erosion by acting as a buffer for waves in storms and reducing flooding by slowing and absorbing rainwater.

Extensive marshes occur along major estuaries around Britain including the Thames, Solent, Bristol Channel, The Wash, Humber, Mersey, Solway Firth, Firth of Forth, Clyde and Cromarty Firth.

‘Salt marshes, also called coastal wetlands, are important because they provide vital ecosystem services,’ said Benjamin Horton, a professor at the Asian School of the Environment at Nanyang Technological University. 

With high-emissions contributing to global warming, rising sea levels is an unfortunate side effect. This map shows the predictions of what will happen to marshland around the UK in this scenario. The darker red the dot, the sooner the salt marsh is likely to disappear 

With high-emissions contributing to global warming, rising sea levels is an unfortunate side effect. This map shows the predictions of what will happen to marshland around the UK in this scenario. The darker red the dot, the sooner the salt marsh is likely to disappear 

With high-emissions contributing to global warming, rising sea levels is an unfortunate side effect. This map shows the predictions of what will happen to marshland around the UK in this scenario. The darker red the dot, the sooner the salt marsh is likely to disappear 

WHAT ARE SALT MARSHES AND WHY ARE THEY IMPORTANT?

Salt marshes are ecosystems along the coast flooded frequently by seawater. 

They provide vital habitat for animals, such as birds, crustaceans and shellfish, and are important in protecting against flooding and erosion.

They act as a buffer against coastal storms and are often a biodiversity hotspot. 

Salt marshes also help filter rainwater, removing pollutants and making it cleaner.  

Scientists claim rising sea levels over the last 10,000 years has led to increased water-logging of the salt marshes, killing vegetation that protects them from erosion and resulting in the marshes retreating landwards. 

‘They act as a buffer against coastal storms to protect the mainland and a filter for pollutants to decontaminate our fresh water. 

‘We also lose an important biodiversity hotspot. Salt marshes are important transitional habitats between the ocean and the land, and a nursery area for fish, crustacea, and insects.’  

Rising sea levels as a result of global warming are threatening the existence of these important areas.  

Co-author Professor Ian Shennan, from the Department of Geography at Durham University, said: ‘Sea level rise is inevitable over the next 100 years, as it has been over much of the last 10,000 years.

Marshlands have been rapidly shrinking in recent centuries. Increased sea levels as a result of global warming is threatening to destroy them in the coming decades

Marshlands have been rapidly shrinking in recent centuries. Increased sea levels as a result of global warming is threatening to destroy them in the coming decades

Salt marshes are coastal wetlands that are flooded and drained by salt water brought in by the tides and can be found along the British coast (pictured)

Salt marshes are coastal wetlands that are flooded and drained by salt water brought in by the tides and can be found along the British coast (pictured)

Wetlands used to be far more common, with historical data revealing they once covered a far larger area of the UK (left). Today, they tend to exist in coastal regions (right) and act as a buffer against storms and are often a biodiversity hotspot

Extensive marshes occur along major estuaries around Britain including the Thames, Solent, Bristol Channel, The Wash, Humber, Mersey and the Tees (pictured). Signs of erosion can already be seen 

Extensive marshes occur along major estuaries around Britain including the Thames, Solent, Bristol Channel, The Wash, Humber, Mersey and the Tees (pictured). Signs of erosion can already be seen 

Extensive marshes occur along major estuaries around Britain including the Thames, Solent, Bristol Channel, The Wash, Humber, Mersey and the Tees (pictured). Signs of erosion can already be seen 

‘The rates differ across Great Britain and we can model these differences.

‘Quantifying the vulnerability of marshes to sea level rise is essential if the threat is to be mitigated over the coming decades.’

Professor Shennan said the Environment Agency has plans which include allowing new areas to flood.

The research involved scientists from Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, Delft University of Technology in The Netherlands, University College Dublin, College of William and Mary, and Rutgers University, both in the US, and Durham University.

HOW MUCH WILL SEA LEVELS RISE IN THE NEXT FEW CENTURIES?

Global sea levels could rise as much as 1.2 metres (4 feet) by 2300 even if we meet the 2015 Paris climate goals, scientists have warned.

The long-term change will be driven by a thaw of ice from Greenland to Antarctica that is set to re-draw global coastlines.

Sea level rise threatens cities from Shanghai to London, to low-lying swathes of Florida or Bangladesh, and to entire nations such as the Maldives.

It is vital that we curb emissions as soon as possible to avoid an even greater rise, a German-led team of researchers said in a new report.

By 2300, the report projected that sea levels would gain by 0.7-1.2 metres, even if almost 200 nations fully meet goals under the 2015 Paris Agreement.

Targets set by the accords include cutting greenhouse gas emissions to net zero in the second half of this century.

Ocean levels will rise inexorably because heat-trapping industrial gases already emitted will linger in the atmosphere, melting more ice, it said.

In addition, water naturally expands as it warms above four degrees Celsius (39.2°F).

The report also found that every five years of delay beyond 2020 in peaking global emissions would mean an extra 20 centimetres (8 inches) of sea level rise by 2300.

‘Sea level is often communicated as a really slow process that you can’t do much about … but the next 30 years really matter,’ lead author Dr Matthias Mengel, of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, in Potsdam, Germany, told Reuters.

None of the nearly 200 governments to sign the Paris Accords are on track to meet its pledges.

Source: MailOnline

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