The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Get Water Wings
April 11, 2007
While some of our more intellectually backward residents continue to dismiss global warming and climate change as figments of Al Gore’s imagination, scientists in the Middle Atlantic states — including researchers at Rutgers University and the American Littoral Society — are trying to get a picture of how New Jersey and the rest of the region will change as temperatures and sea levels slowly rise.
On the bright side, warmer temperatures would mean a longer growing season. Jersey tomatoes all year round, eh? Eh? On the not-so-bright side, the usual miserable temperatures during New Jersey’s summers will stay longer for longer periods of time, and the state’s coastal barrier islands and marshes are in for trouble:
A January report by Rutgers University and the American Littoral Society concluded that, because of intensifying weather systems, what is considered a 100-year storm along the Jersey coast today would amount to a mere 30-year storm by 2100.
Such an event would inundate all of New Jersey’s barrier islands, including about 90 square miles of primarily residential development.
Marshes that serve as teeming nurseries for fish and buffers against raging oceans would disappear.
In the Delaware estuary, Melanie Vile, a Villanova University biologist, and David Velinsky, senior scientist at the Academy of Natural Sciences, are taking a new look at the fragile freshwater tidal marshes that line the shores of many streams.
Although the ranges of some wildlife and plants are expanding northward, researchers say it’s unlikely that species – let alone entire ecosystems – could migrate fast enough to keep up with climate change.
“Things just don’t evolve and adapt as fast as they would need to,” said Ann Rhoads, senior botanist at the Morris Arboretum.
So researchers are beginning to look at mitigation.
“Let’s say you’re doing a wetlands restoration or a riparian-corridor restoration,” Kreeger said. “Do you want to pick trees historically found here, or would you be smarter to think about restoration trajectories? We’re talking a lot about this.”
Perhaps as a gesture to the future of our grandchildren, we should start buying real estate on the lightly higher elevations near but not on the New Jersey coastline. That way, our descendants can pitch their beach chairs on the Gulf of Barnegat — formerly Barnegat Bay — and wave to the Ocean County sandwingers as they paddle back from their vacation homes.
Say, I bet those “Bennies Go Home” signs will make great rudders.