|A long-billed curlew. The Service is working with the National Wildlife Federation and state and federal partners to assess climate change impacts in marine and coastal environments in Oregon and the North Pacific region. The information will help resource managers take action to safeguard species and habitats in the region. Photo: USFWS.
Coastal and marine environments in Oregon and throughout the North Pacific region are rich in natural wealth, scenic beauty and quality of life. They are also among the first places being affected by climate change and other environmental stressors.
The Oregon Climate Change Research Institute in its 2010 Oregon Climate Assessment Report reported that observed and projected effects include loss of coastal wetlands; changes in the abundance and distribution of wildlife, including salmon; increased coastal erosion and flooding from increasing sea levels and wave heights; and impacts to ocean ecosystems from increased temperatures and acidity of seawater. The report emphasized that these changes are already happening and that Oregon needs to prepare and plan for how to adapt both human and natural communities to these changes.
Estuaries all along the West Coast have been greatly affected during the past 100 years by diking, draining and conversion to agriculture or development, says Roy Lowe, refuge manager for the Oregon Coast National Wildlife Refuge Complex. This activity eliminated vast tidal marshes and swamps. For instance, the Coquille River estuary, where Bandon Marsh National Wildlife Refuge is located, has suffered a 95 percent loss of the tidal marsh and 93 percent loss of forested wetlands. Lowe says these habitats directly support juvenile salmon and steelhead, waterfowl, wading birds and many other species. In addition, the wetlands also dampen flood and storm effects, trap sediment, sequester carbon and provide essential detritus and nutrients to the lower estuaries and ocean.