4 Ways Life Protects Earth

Shellfish preserving a shoreline— Photo by Peter Secan on Unsplash

Shellfish against rising seas

Rising sea levels from melting glaciers and ice caps cause increased flooding on coast lines. The technological fix is to build concrete walls on the shore, but walls also keep out the organisms and nutrients that come in with each high tide, which shoreline creatures need to live. Concrete does nothing to treat the carbon levels which drive global warming.

Mangrove forest Photo by The Tampa Bay Estuary Program on Unsplash

Mangrove forests

Mangroves are very special trees some not much taller than shrubs, which can hold back the sea, desalinate water, and create habitat for plants and animals. They have the remarkable ability to grow in salt water or brackish water where other trees can’t. Even desert countries such as Saudi Arabia are creating mangrove forests on their shores. The forests filter out the salt and transpire the water into the air, which brings rain to the desert, creating farmland.

Life underwater — Photo by Shane Stagner on Unsplash

Seaweed soaks up carbon and provides habitat

People also plant vast beds of kelp and seaweeds, which can absorb carbon and then take it to the bottom of the sea, out of circulation. According to Sea-Trees, if kelp, mangrove, seaweeds and coral reefs were planted and cared for in all appropriate places, they could soak up 20 times the carbon of land-based forests, enough to significantly reduce global warming.

Coral reefs

Around the sea, coral reefs are being damaged or dying from water becoming warmer and more acidic. Groups such as Sea-Trees are planting new coral reefs in Bali and other tropical countries. Coral reefs are among the great incubators of life, so restoring coral allows plants to grow and absorb carbon, as well as fish, cephalopods and other animals.

Coral reef life Photo by Diane Picchiottino on Unsplash

Swamps and marshes

“Wetlands,” the general term for swamps and marshes, also protect against flooding, sequester carbon, and provide homes to millions of creatures. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, “Wetlands provide food and habitat for a diverse array of plants and animals, act as buffers to flooding and erosion, and serve as key links in the global water cycle. Because of their sponge-like ability to absorb water, wetlands can slow the momentum of flood waters or of a coastal storm surge.”

Pests or allies? Photo by sempre dilunedi on Unsplash

Animals help too.

Beavers create wetlands on their own by damming up streams to create small floods. The water soaks in promoting lush growth of grasses and raising the water table for miles around.

Can Nature do this on Her own?

Could sea and land practices like these prevent global warming? According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), soil regeneration could absorb up to 4 billion tons of carbon per year. That’s about 14% of the 31.5 billion tons per year emitted by industrial civilization. Seaweed such as kelp could also sequester 173 million metric tons annually, according to the Sierra Club. I suspect the number could be higher; the ocean is a big place. Forests on land can turn billions of tons of CO2 into wood every year as they grow.



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David Spero RN

David Spero RN

Alive in this place and time to help Make Earth Sacred Again. Write about Nature, economics, health, politics, and spirit from Earths point of view.