Keeping Up with Coastal Erosion
- Grades: 3–5, 6–8
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Air temperatures aren't the only things that are rising these days. The levels of our seas and oceans are also rising due to the added water from melting polar ice. As a result, many of our once-protected coastlines are being pounded by strong waves. Bit by bit, the waves are carrying away the soil and rock — a phenomenon called coastal erosion.
What should be done to counteract this threat to our shorelines? The results from the Kid's Environmental Report Card poll show that most kids want to save our eroding shorelines. "Plant trees and erect walls" was the most popular action among those taking the poll. Moving people away from the coast proved the least popular alternative, followed closely by doing nothing — leaving residents to deal with the consequences of living too near the planet's gradually rising seas.
Water We Going to Do?
Determining what's best for our coasts and the people who live along them is extremely challenging. Scientists are uncertain about how high our oceans will rise during this century, making it difficult to pick an effective strategy. Recent estimates range from about 16 inches to three feet a century. The higher of the two figures would be catastrophic for wetlands and other coastal habitats.
Changing storm patterns caused by global warming could dramatically increase the effects of coastal erosion, according to Jordan Slott, a researcher at Duke University. If Slott is right, building walls and planting trees may not be enough to slow coastal erosion.
"We want those involved in managing coastlines — and the people living there — to realize that the story is more complicated than they might think," says Slott.