Since the 1990s, sea levels have been rising at a rate of 0.14 inches per year. That may not sound like a big number, but it’s a rate that’s putting many coastal cities, and even entire islands, at risk. If carbon emissions continue to go unchecked, a recent study shows that sea levels may rise by one meter by 2100.
An OECD report from 2008 ranked the most exposed cities, taking a look at how effected they would be if the sea level rose by 0.5 meters by 2007. Calcutta, India would be the hardest hit, with 14 million people affected, but other cities on the list that would be seriously threatened include Miami, New York and Shanghai. While for the time being we’ve been able to turn a blind eye to the effects of rising sea levels, soon it will be felt by more than island nations.
The issue of rising sea levels is serious, and it raises the question: what can we do? If the warming of the planet accelerates, then so will the rising of the sea. Dealing with rising sea levels means dealing with climate change. But as we all know, that is a long and arduous process, often obstructed by politics.
But there might be other solutions that we can employ in the short term. Like oysters.
Oyster reefs can act as protection during extreme storms, keeping lowlands from flooding, a large concern when it comes to rising sea levels. But if the reefs aren’t there, neither is the protection, and our lust for eating oysters means that we have lost up to 85 percent of oyster reefs, threatening the natural protection of bays, estuaries and the surrounding shoreline. The main reason for the reduction? Over harvesting.
A new study published in Nature Climate Change provides some hope, showing that oyster reefs can grow quite quickly, making restoration projects an essential part of dealing with some of the consequences related to rising sea levels. Oysters are strong and fast growing little bivalves, and all we need to do is ensure that we are putting the right restoration projects in place to ensure that they thrive.
In fact, even with the most extreme predictions of rising sea levels, oysters can compete. “The scientists wrote in their paper that the reefs could double in volume every four years, growing “rapidly in all directions,” suggesting that ‘intertidal reefs have the potential to match even the highest predictions’ of sea-level rise forecast by 2100,” wrote Pacific Standard.
That’s definitely an argument for restoration projects that protect, and grow, these intertidal reefs. After all, oysters might just be our armor against the rising sea. That’s definitely worth an investment.
Photo Credit: Farrukh
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