Coastal wetlands host some of the richest biodiversity on the planet. Salt marshes, seagrass beds, and the shallow waters where mangroves take root are refuges for wildlife and nurseries for juvenile fish, including commercially important species such as groupers and snappers.
As with coral reefs, these habitats help vulnerable coastal communities adapt to a changing climate by stabilizing shorelines and serving as a buffer from storms. Coastal wetlands are also important for mitigating the effects of climate change because they sequester large amounts of carbon in the soil.
Yet coastal habitats are among the most threatened ecosystems in the world. In the past 50 years, half of the world’s mangroves have been destroyed, according to the Global Mangrove Alliance. And in recent decades, at least a third of coral reefs have died out because of warming waters, habitat destruction, pollution, overfishing, and ocean acidification. If current rates continue, mangroves and coral reefs could disappear by the next century.
The United Nations 2015 Paris Agreement, adopted by 197 parties, created a significant opportunity for protecting coastal habitats. Each nation has committed to reducing carbon emissions and building resilience to climate change impacts, including “nature-based solutions” such as coastal conservation. Pew will build partnerships with countries to help them integrate coastal wetlands and coral reefs into their commitments and explore scaling this approach to substantially reduce the rate of coastal habitat loss.