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Coastal Wetlands

The effects of Hurricane Sandy storm surge on wetland degradation and consequent loss of ecosystem services were estimated for coastal wetlands in New Jersey. Research in this field has qualitatively determined the effects of hurricanes on wetlands; however, there has been little quantification of wetland degradation and absolutely no assessment of impact to ecosystem services following a hurricane. Wetland degradation was mapped and quantified by comparing pre- and post-Sandy aerial photography from 2012. Loss of ecosystem services was estimated based on the degree of wetland degradation. Our wetland degradation analysis found that the main mechanisms behind degradation were erosion, deposition and marsh salinization. Moderate flooding and marsh dieback were the most prevalent types of damage, and saline marshes and herbaceous wetlands were the most degraded wetland types. Severe degradation was most prevalent, occurring in 41.38 % of the wetlands. In addition, we found that 51.05 % of the degradation was long-term damage. In our ecosystem service loss analysis, we created a range of monetary values to show the distribution of damage. Monetary loss within New Jersey ranged up to $4.4 billion of the total $9.4 billion provided by wetlands (47 %). Our wetland degradation quantification and ecosystem service loss analysis provide insight into the impacts from storm surge damage and offers a novel methodology for remediation and restoration efforts.

Hauser, S., M. Meixler, M. Laba. 2015. Quantification of impacts and ecosystem service loss in New Jersey coastal wetlands due to Hurricane Sandy storm surge. Wetlands 25:1137-1148.

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Dr. Magdeline Laba