Climate Column - Rising Sea LevelBy Tom Somrack, NFU Government Relations Intern

It is no surprise that rising sea levels are caused and accelerated by a changing planet and climate. But, an increase in sea levels can affect more than just the coastal lands. For example, according to USDA’s Regional Vulnerability Assessments, “Threats from sea level rise also include the loss of agricultural land in coastal zones, as well as the deterioration of wetlands, marshes, and estuaries, which provide ecosystem services in the form of aquaculture production, water filtration, and flood protection.”

Depending on where you live and what you produce, rising sea levels may have many implications for your farm. For example, the USDA Northeast and Northern Forest Regional Climate Hub report: Northeast and Northern Forests Regional Climate Hub Assessment of Climate Change Vulnerability and Adaptation and Mitigation Strategies explain how aquaculture can become affected by rising sea levels, stating, “Shellfish such as oysters require a proper mix of fresh and salt water, so their habitats in low-lying coastal areas may be threatened as the salinity of water increases due to sea level rise.” The assessments also provide mitigation strategies in addressing these vulnerabilities; in this case one strategy includes targeting disease control and improved health of aquaculture species.

The vulnerability assessment also states that sea level rising may compromise freshwater sources due to salt water intrusions. Threats from sea level rise also include the loss of agricultural land in coastal zones, as well as the deterioration of wetlands and marshes, which can affect all forms of agriculture around these areas.

Have you seen the effects of rising sea-levels in your area? Let us know in the comments below. As serious as problems involving rising sea-levels may be, climate change affects all types of farmers and landscapes, farmers have lots of options for fighting climate change and adapting to difficulties that cannot be avoided. Learn more by staying posted with NFU’s blog and visiting your region’s USDA Climate Hub website.

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