The Disappearing Wetland Act: Climate Change, Development, and Protection
Wetlands are the providers of ecosystem services and important local and national economic resources. Despite the services provided by these ecosystems, the importance of wetlands are often overlooked and they are filled in to make way for development, polluted, and degraded. These habitats are further damaged by the effects of climate change. This thesis focuses on wetlands in the Northeastern United States, using the Long Island Sound as a case study to explore the devastating effects of development and climate change on wetlands. In this thesis, I use environmental history, economics, and government policy to explore the importance of wetland protection. The UN IPCC, and EPA sponsored wetland monitoring and assessment reports are used to collect scientific data on the health of wetlands. The thesis explores fauna which have the ability to live only within the narrow conditions wetlands provide for them, as well as the subsequent effects destruction of wetlands have on local and national economies. All this evidence points to the need for increased protection of wetlands. Wetlands provide essential ecosystem services, economic services, and in the face of climate change serve as buffers against extreme weather. Despite the importance of wetlands there has been little increased protection for these environments. The only way to protect wetlands is to draw national attention and begin to draft and pass updated polices. Increased protection of these essential environments could lessen the effect of climate change, protect natural resources, and ensure a continually thriving ecosystems and economies.