Scientists warn that sea level rise is a problem that cannot be ignored. But a new study says the secret to protecting the Bay Area may rest with something that is currently being thrown away.
San Francisco will spend billions of dollars over the next 30 years to build up a few miles of seawall along the Embarcadero to protect it from rising seas. But the rest of the Bay Area has something that may work even better: tidal marshes.
“We are so lucky in the Bay Area that we have these tidal marshes. We have this option if we choose to take it,” said Dr. Letitia Grenier, Senior Scientist with the San Francisco Estuary Institute. She said shoreline marshes are a natural form of seawall that grow higher as the water level rises. Each high tide deposits a new layer of sediment to the marsh. The more mud washed into the marshes, the faster and higher they will grow.
“These wetlands can actually grow vertically to keep up with the water as long as they have enough mud to do that,” she said, “and the plants will grow right up through all that mud.”