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New Plan Outlines Strategies for Conserving South Atlantic Salt Marsh Habitat

May 24, 2023

The South Atlantic Salt Marsh Initiative has released a plan for conserving approximately 1 million acres of salt marsh threatened by climate change.

Aerial view of salt marsh habitat An aerial view of salt marsh near Naval Station Mayport in Jacksonville, Florida. Credit: Mark Bias.

The South Atlantic region of the United States is home to approximately 1 million acres of salt marsh that span the coastlines of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and northeast Florida. But these important habitats and adjacent communities are at risk due to climate change and other threats. The South Atlantic Salt Marsh Initiative has released a plan recommending key strategies and actions for conserving salt marshes for future generations.

Salt marshes provide important benefits for coastal ecosystems and communities. They support valuable fisheries, trap and filter pollution, and help reduce damage from storms and flooding. But challenges like climate change, pollution, and human activities threaten the future of these habitats. As sea levels rise, for example, coastal salt marshes move inland to areas of higher ground, through a process known as “marsh migration.” But barriers such as bulkheads, seawalls, and roads can block this migration. Without room to shift away from rising seas, salt marshes are at risk of disappearing. 

The new plan presents an array of recommendations for conserving salt marshes across the South Atlantic. They range from building living shorelines to help protect existing salt marshes from erosion, to removing barriers that might block future marsh migration. NOAA and other South Atlantic Salt Marsh Initiative partners can use this plan to coordinate and prioritize our collective conservation efforts.

The South Atlantic Salt Marsh Initiative was brought together by The Pew Charitable Trusts and the Southeast Regional Partnership for Planning and Sustainability. It is made up of more than 300 members, including:

  • Federal, state, and local government agencies
  • Conservation organizations
  • Academic institutions
  • Local communities 

NOAA has served on the Initiative’s steering committee since it first launched in 2021, collaborating closely with other members of the partnership to guide the creation of this plan.