Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Tidal Flats Are Disappearing

By Nick Murray

The world is losing its tidal flats at an alarming rate, putting enormous pressure on threatened migratory birds.

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Who speaks for the tidal flat? There are many voices for the mangrove forest, the coral reef and the seagrass meadow, but the chorus for tidal flats is often silent. Not only do hundreds of species of migratory bird depend on them for their existence, this coastal ecosystem also protects large chunks of humanity, providing ecosystem services to hundreds of millions of people.

The problem for all coastal ecosystems is the shifting character of the coastal zone. The past 50 years has seen the global human population migrating rapidly to coastal regions. As a result, coastlines around the world have become a focus of expansion of urban, agricultural and industrial areas.

This is having a major impact on coastal ecosystems, leading to the widespread loss and degradation of mangroves, seagrasses, coral reefs and tidal flats. This has major consequences for humans and nature. In terms of the human cost, coastal ecosystems are a frontline defence that protects billions of dollars of infrastructure from storms and sea level rise. Maintaining their integrity is among the most cost-effective options for coastal protection.

Tidal flats are a widespread coastal ecosystem that are frequently overlooked in the planning and management of coastal resources even though tidal flats provide important ecosystem services, such as food resources and storm protection. In...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.