Less Than 16% of the World's Coastal Regions Remain Intact
A staggering new figure highlights the need for immediate conservation and rehabilitation efforts of coastal regions on a global scale: only 15.5% of these regions remain intact. The recent University of Queensland study mapped the degradation of coastal regions from human-caused "industrialized" pressures, such as roadways, nutrient pollution from agriculture activities, and even intense fishing, as reported by CBS.
FOX 5 San Diego: Rising Ocean Temperatures, Toxins Harmful To Marine Life, April 22, 2021.
According to the study's co-author Brooke Williams, "Coastal regions contain high levels of biodiversity and are relied upon by millions of people for ecosystem services such as food and storm protection."
Economist Impact Events: Nature-based ocean solutions for climate change mitigation (highlight reel), December 22, 2021.
Deutsche Bank: Protecting our oceans - towards a sustainable 'Blue Economy', July 6, 2021.
Caspian Report: The Ocean Economy will eclipse $3 trillion by 2030, July 15, 2020.
Why This Matters
Researchers fear the feedback loop in which global warming melts ice caps faster, thus accelerating global warming by releasing additional greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Ice melt has already accelerated at an alarming rate. For example, the Thwaites glacier (AKA "The Doomsday Glacier") is predicted to collapse within 3 to 5 years, which would raise global sea levels by 25%. And last month, researchers found that over the last three years, the largest iceberg on Earth has emptied enough water into the ocean to fill over 60 million Olympic-sized pools.
The Climate Project India: Ocean warming, December 24, 2021.
Bloomberg: Sea Levels Are Rising Faster Than Most Pessimistic Forecasts, February 2, 2021.
MSNBC: 'Doomsday Glacier' - Experts Raise Alarms About Cracking Antarctic Ice Shelf, December 30, 2021.
PBS: Melting of the Thwaites Glacier could rewrite the global coastline, December 15, 2021.
In the US, over half of the coastal regions are under high amounts of human and industrialized pressure, especially Los Angeles, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, and Delaware. Meanwhile, these same regions are also facing other human-caused climate change impacts, such as rising sea levels and temperatures that increase vulnerability to flooding and disastrous storms. In May 2021, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill allocating $640 million to mitigate the impacts of rising sea levels on the state.
CNN: 'Mind boggling' | See how rising sea levels will affect the coasts, February 17, 2022.
The study results certainly provide clear targets of where to focus both conservation and rehabilitation efforts, and its authors hope the data will encourage governments’ ambitions. One of its collaborators, Dr. Amelia Wenger states, "We're urging governments and custodians of these environments to proactively conserve the valuable remaining intact coastal regions that they are responsible for, while restoring those that are degraded."
The Economist: Mangroves | How they help the ocean, March 9, 2020.
CBS 8 San Diego: Interactive maps show projected sea-level rise across world, November 15, 2021.
Island Institute: A Climate of Change | Sea Level Rise, April 23, 2021.
ITV News: UK not prepared for coastal erosion, September 24, 2021.
AFP: The Brazil resort town disappearing into the sea, February 14, 2022.
TED: Coming to terms with sea level rise | Keren Bolter, November 23, 2020.