Development, Rising Seas Take Toll on RI’s Wetlands

Sea level rise is causing increased flooding of salt marshes, creating a super saline environment through standing ponds that kill surrounding vegetation. Photo/Rhode Island Sea Grant, Meredith Haas.
Sea level rise is causing increased flooding of salt marshes, creating a super-saline environment through standing ponds that kill surrounding vegetation. Photo/Rhode Island Sea Grant, Meredith Haas.

EcoRI: In the late 18th century, along the banks of the Blackstone River in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, money, technology and labor converged to provide the power that helped launch the country’s drive to industrialization. In the two-plus centuries since it transformed from a farming to manufacturing state, Rhode Island has lost thousands of acres of fresh and saltwater wetlands.

Rhode Island’s wetlands, both coastal and inland, provide nursery habitat for fisheries, support recreational activities and tourism, sustain important economic benefits and play a key role in absorbing nutrients that would otherwise pollute local waters. They also play a critical role in providing clean drinking water.

Since the Industrial Revolution took Rhode Island by storm, the state has lost, according to the Department of Environmental Management (DEM), some 37 percent of its historic wetlands. Downtown Providence, for instance, was once known as the Great Salt Cove, before it was filled in and built upon. It’s now called Waterplace Park.

Read more about Rhode Island’s dwindling wetlands HERE: