University of Newcastle-led study shows coastal wetlands disappearing faster

Coastal wetlands that have existed for thousands of years may now have the same average life expectancy as humans, new research from the University of Newcastle has revealed. 

The study, led by Dr Jose Rodriguez and Associate Professor Patricia Saco, found that the average life expectancy for wetlands was about 80 years when rates of decay, the rise of sea levels and restrictions that human-made structures had on water flow were taken into account.

Dr Rodriguez said the new model, published in Nature Communications, predicted a 50 per cent increase in the velocity at which wetlands would disappear.

“Under a high sea-level rise scenario, most wetlands of South East Australia within a 1km coastal fringe will disappear due to submergence in about 80 years,” he said.

Associate Professor Saco said coastal wetlands offered “important protection” from erosion, storm surges and tsunamis.

“This valuable habitat is in decline globally and in Australia due to sea-level rise and human pressures,” she said.