By Alex DeMetrick

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Using nature to dampen the effects of rising sea levels. Maryland has just completed a study of those natural defenses.

Alex DeMetrick reports only a fraction of the state’s coastline is protected.

Ice is melting faster than previously predicted. In March, researchers estimated that could raise sea levels by six-feet by the end of this century. That’s on top of the one-foot rise in the 20th century.

“The sea level rise that we saw in the last century was really unprecedented in 2,800 years,” said Dr. Donald Boaesch, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science.

Following Hurricane Sandy, Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources joined in an assessment of the state’s 7,000 miles of coastline.

“And identify where our habitats are currently protecting our coastal communities and residents,” said Nicole Carlozo, DNR researcher.

By forests and especially wetlands. The study found just 22-percent of Maryland’s coastline has protective buffers.

“To dampen wave energy and take in water, so that less water is reaching our developed areas,” said Carlozo.

Maryland will share the study with local jurisdictions to increase those natural barriers — meaning, new wetlands could replace those that were lost — especially on the lower Eastern Shore.

Using nature to dampen rising sea levels is going to be a real challenge in heavily developed areas.

“Like Baltimore and Annapolis. We have to use more innovative hybrid approaches — like living shorelines — to blend structural components with natural features,” said Carlozo.

The study found the counties at greatest risk from rising sea levels are Dorchester, Somerset and Worcester.

Alex DeMetrick

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