Tidewatts, auch Watt genannt, sind küstennahe Feuchtgebiete, die Küstenlinien vor Meereskräften wie Wellen und Hurrikans schützen. Durch den Klimawandel und die Urbanisierung nimmt die Fläche der Tidewatten weltweit ab. Eine neue Studie der Florida Atlantic University untersucht die Auswirkungen der städtischen Expansion auf Tidewattenumgebungen in den kontinentalen USA. Die Forscher analysierten Daten von 156 Küstenkreisen von 1985 bis 2015 und stellten fest, dass menschliche Aktivitäten in den letzten drei Jahrzehnten signifikante Auswirkungen auf die Tidewatten hatten, und nicht natürliche Faktoren. Die städtische Expansion hat den Raum der Tidewatten eingeengt und die umliegenden Gebiete degradiert, wobei eine stärkere Degradierung in der Nähe von städtischen Standorten zu beobachten ist. Die Studie teilte die Grafschaften auch in vier Zonen basierend auf Geographie und Verwaltungseinteilungen ein: nördlicher Atlantikküste, südlicher Atlantikküste, Golfküste und Pazifikküste. Die Atlantikküste hatte die höchsten Raten städtischer Expansion, während New York City, Miami und Seattle keine Überschneidungen mit Tidewatten-Erosionen aufwiesen. Dies legt nahe, dass diese Städte auf andere Landquellen für ihre Expansion angewiesen waren. Die Studie hat wichtige Auswirkungen auf die Küstenraumplanung und betont die Notwendigkeit von ungehinderten Wasserkanälen und ausreichend Platz für die Wanderung der Tidewatten. Das Versäumnis, diese Maßnahmen zu ergreifen, kann zum Verschwinden der Tidewatten und zu nachteiligen Folgen für Strandgemeinschaften führen.

Introduction

Tideland, also known as tidal flats, are areas along coastlines that are submerged during high tide and exposed during low tide. They play a crucial role in protecting coastlines from the damaging forces of waves and hurricanes. However, these vital coastal wetlands are facing significant threats due to the impacts of climate change and urbanization, leading to their shrinking across the globe.

The Study

A study conducted by researchers from Florida Atlantic University aimed to examine the impact of urban expansion on tidal flat environments. The researchers analyzed data from 156 coastal counties from 1985 to 2015 to understand the extent of the impact.

Human Activities vs. Natural Factors

The findings of the study revealed that human activities have had a more substantial impact on tidal flats than natural factors over the past three decades. The expansion of urban areas has resulted in the squeezing of tidal flats and degradation of the surrounding areas.

Degradation and Proximity to Urban Locations

The study found that tidal flat degradation is more pronounced in areas closer to urban locations. This can be attributed to factors such as land reclamation, construction, pollution, and alteration of water flow patterns. The degradation of tidal flats in these areas can have severe consequences for coastal ecosystems, including the loss of habitat for various species and decreased resilience to storms and flooding.

Comparison of Coastal Zones

In order to gain a comprehensive understanding of the impact of urban expansion, the study divided the 156 coastal counties into four zones based on their geography and administrative divisions: Northern Atlantic Coast, Southern Atlantic Coast, Gulf Coast, and Pacific Coast. The researchers observed variations in urban expansion rates and tidal flat erosion between these zones.

Urban Expansion and the Atlantic Coast

The study revealed that the Atlantic Coast experienced the highest rates of urban expansion among the four zones. This could be due to various factors such as population growth, economic development, and favorable geographic conditions. The rapid urbanization in this region poses a significant threat to tidal flats and emphasizes the need for effective conservation strategies.

Alternative Land Sources for Expansion

Intriguingly, the study found that cities like New York City, Miami, and Seattle did not overlap with areas of tidal flat erosion. This suggests that these cities relied on alternative land sources for their expansion, such as brownfield redevelopment or vertical development. However, it is important to note that even if tidal flats are not directly impacted by urban expansion, the surrounding areas and ecological processes can still be affected.

Implications for Coastal Land Use Planning

The study’s findings have significant implications for coastal land use planning. It highlights the importance of considering the preservation and restoration of tidal flats in order to maintain healthy coastal ecosystems and protect coastal communities from the impacts of climate change and sea-level rise.

The Role of Land Use Planning

Land use planning plays a crucial role in balancing urban development with the preservation of tidal flats. Measures such as protecting tidal flat buffers, avoiding construction in vulnerable areas, and implementing building codes that promote sustainable development can contribute to the conservation of these important coastal wetlands.

Consequences of Tidal Flat Disappearance

The disappearance of tidal flats due to urban expansion and degradation can have severe consequences. Tidal flats provide essential ecosystem services such as water filtration, carbon sequestration, and habitat for numerous species. Their loss can destabilize coastal ecosystems, leading to increased vulnerability to erosion, loss of biodiversity, and decreased resilience to natural disasters.

Conclusion

The study emphasizes the need for sustainable coastal development practices that prioritize the preservation and restoration of tidal flats. Effective land use planning, combined with environmental regulations and community engagement, can help protect these valuable coastal wetlands for the benefit of both nature and human communities. By adopting a proactive approach to coastal development, we can ensure the long-term health and resilience of our coastlines.

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