Restore processes to maintain baylands as sea levels rise
As the transition between land and sea, we tend to think of our shore as static and unchanging. But it is actually the result of many different processes in constant action. These processes (sometimes called “natural engineering”) are what sustan the baylands over time, allowing them to change with environmental conditions.Therefore, restoring baylands to be sustainable over the long term means restoring these processes as well. By restoring both habitats and processes, we enable the baylands to adapt as sea levels rise, maintaining the benefits of these wetlands into the future .
Sediment deposition and freshwater flows are examples of the natural processes that maintain the baylands. As we have dammed rivers, put creeks within levees, diked the baylands, and built infrastructure along the shoreline we have removed the physical connections that deliver sediment and freshwater.
Ongoing sediment delivery allows baylands to grow in elevation at pace with sea-level rise. Freshwater is critical for transporting sediments from upland areas into marshes (Without this natural transportation of sediment, we will have to use heavy equipment at great cost to accomplish the same task). Freshwater also creates variable salinity, which contributes to the development of brackish marshes and other diverse habitats that support wildlife. The brackish marshes rapidly accumulate peat, another process that helps marshes maintain their elevation as sea levels rise. The accumulation of peat removes carbon from the atmosphere and stores it underground (“carbon sequestration”), a process that will be more and more valuable as this century progresses.