Rising sea levels due to climate change are destroying vast areas of coastal forests due to increased salt concentrations in the soil. The appearance of dead ghost forests was recorded in the United States, however, according to scientists, the disaster will affect coastal ecosystems around the world. Writes about this edition of The Conversation.
Coastal flooding with seawater raises salt levels in forests along the Atlantic Coastal Plain, from Maine to Florida. Salts move through groundwater during periods when fresh water is depleted, such as during droughts. Salt water also moves through canals and ditches, penetrating inland due to the wind and tides. Salinization begins to kill trees, their bark turns pale, and the leaves stop growing. The dead forests have been called ghost forests, and only salt-tolerant shrubs and grasses grow in them.
Thanks to satellite images, scientists have discovered that over 10 percent of the forest wetlands in the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge have been lost in the past 35 years. Rapid sea level rise is outstripping the ability of these forests to adapt to wetter and saltier conditions. In addition, extreme weather events caused by climate change (severe storms, frequent hurricanes and droughts) cause additional damage.
According to the researchers, planting salt-tolerant marsh plants is the best strategy under these conditions, since the forests cannot be saved anyway, but it is still better than completely flooding the wetlands with salt water.