Saltwater Invasion is Destroying Wild Trees and Plants as Well as Crops

Global heating is raising sea levels around the world, although at different rates in different places. All coastal areas will be threatened sooner or later. But some of the impacts are already serious.

From the Gulf of Mexico, around Florida, and up to the Mid-Atlantic states, saltwater is invading forests and farms. Trees and plants normally absorb freshwater from the ground through their roots. When saltwater replaces freshwater in the ground, it draws water out of the trees and plants, killing them. In some farming areas, normal irrigation ditches and canals that once carried freshwater are now carrying saltwater and killing croplands and neighboring forests.

Consider one case. The Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge on Maryland’s Eastern Shore between the Atlantic Ocean and Chesapeake Bay covers more than 28,000 acres, including forests and wetlands. Since the 1930s, Blackwater has lost more than 5,000 acres to saltwater. And the damage is accelerating. A 2017 aerial survey of the Eastern Shore found over 13,000 forest acres affected by saltwater and a year later a similar survey found over 41,000 acres affected, including the area where Blackwater is!

Scientists and engineers have some strategies to address this emergency, but they are very expensive and mostly about changing land farther from the ocean into marshes.

It’s urgent now to stop focusing on the effects of climate change and start an emergency effort to stop using fossil fuels as fast as possible. But the wealthy One Percent and the governments that serve them are not taking the crisis seriously. The rest of us need to take matters into our own hands.