There are many reasons why the marshes have been disappearing. Nature has had a hand, including erosion from wind and waves, more frequent powerful storm surges, land subsidence and – now we know-- sea level rise. Photo: USFWS.
It takes less than three hours to drive from the nation’s capital to Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. But the bald eagles, abundant waterfowl and fish that are a world away from Capitol Hill are losing ground to the widening Blackwater River and rising sea level in the Chesapeake Bay.
People have been partly responsible for the marshes’ disappearance: by introducing nutria, voracious grass-eating rodents; and by building roads, bridges, canals and ditches that have affected water flow over time.
Nature has had a hand, including erosion from wind and waves, more frequent powerful storm surges, land subsidence and – now we know – sea level rise.
Blackwater Refuge Manager Suzanne Baird has an arsenal of tools that she and her staff, along with conservation partners, may use to protect refuge lands as a coastal haven for fish and wildlife along the Chesapeake Bay. Some measures to counteract marsh loss include creating new marsh, controlling invasive species, and pumping in soil to bolster marsh areas.
The simple act of planting trees creates wooded areas or corridors for animals to roam as the marshes continue to shrink. Blackwater Refuge has lost about 5,000 acres of marshland since the 1940s. Moreover, tree-planting also fights a central cause of climate change: the build-up of greenhouse gases.