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Recommendations for Reducing Wetland Loss in Coastal Watersheds of the United States

June 13, 2022

NOAA and federal partners release a new guidance document detailing steps needed to save our disappearing coastal wetlands.

An aerial view of a patchwork of grassy wetlands on open water. Credit: Hank Carter. The coastal wetlands around Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina. Credit: Hank Carter.

NOAA is pleased to announce the release of the Interagency Coastal Wetlands Workgroup’s Recommendations for Reducing Wetland Loss in Coastal Watersheds of the United States (PDF, 47 pages)

Too Valuable to Lose

Coastal wetlands are some of the most productive ecosystems on Earth. They are a crucial part of healthy estuaries, which generate approximately half of the commercially harvested seafood in the United States. Additionally, coastal wetlands provide other important benefits that impact our day-to-day lives, such as clean drinking water, flood protection, and recreational opportunities.

Unfortunately, watersheds of the lower 48 states lose 80,000 acres of coastal wetlands each year to erosion, subsidence, sea level rise, development, and drainage. That’s approximately seven football fields every hour, and a 25 percent increase over the previous 6-year study period! This loss of habitat has significant economic and social consequences. For example, coastal wetland degradation and loss has reduced the size and diversity of fish populations, affecting the sustainability of commercial and recreational fisheries. In 2019, these fisheries supported 1.8 million jobs and contributed $255 billion to the economy in sales

A wetland with small grassy islands in the foreground and trees in the background. Credit: Steve Callahan
Salt marsh with small grass islands in Maine. Credit: Steve Callahan

Moving the Needle

To address coastal wetland loss, the Workgroup collected information from experts and conducted studies in coastal watersheds throughout the country. With this input, the Workgroup developed recommendations that fall into five categories of actions to be taken in partnership with states, tribes, and other stakeholders:

  1. Increasing the acreage of wetlands restored in coastal watersheds 
  2. Reducing loss of coastal wetlands to development
  3. Reducing loss of coastal wetlands associated with silviculture in the Southeast
  4. Supporting the collection, enhancement, and dissemination of landscape-scale wetland monitoring data
  5. Conducting targeted outreach and stakeholder engagement  

Tackling the climate crisis is a top priority of the Biden administration. The Workgroup recommendations support climate resilience, adaptation, and mitigation by emphasizing the need for increased protection and restoration of wetlands, which reduce storm surge and sequester carbon.

Mangrove trees along a sandy bank in the foreground with a river running through and trees along the bank in the background. Credit: Haley Capone
Mangroves, a type of coastal wetland habitat, in Oleta River State Park, Florida. Credit: Haley Capone.

Next Steps

The Workgroup has already started implementing some priority recommendations. For example, to enhance data for communities with coastal wetlands, NOAA increased its investment in the collaboration between its Coastal Change Analysis Program and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Wetlands Inventory. With the official release of the recommendations, NOAA is now conducting targeted outreach to catalyze action to slow and reverse coastal wetland loss

Members of the Interagency Coastal Wetlands Workgroup are:

  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  • U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  • U.S. Geological Survey
  • Natural Resources Conservation Service
  • Federal Highway Administration 

Last updated by Office of Habitat Conservation on February 26, 2024