Sutton-Grier spoke about natural infrastructure, such as salt marshes, mangrove trees, and dunes, and how it can protect shorelines from erosion in the wake of worsening natural disasters. Natural infrastructure, unlike grey (manmade, built) infrastructure is more cost effective, grows stronger as it establishes, and can grow and develop, keeping pace with rising sea levels To learn more about this, see a recent ESSIC feature on the importance of coastal wetlands in disaster mitigation.
She also spoke of the importance of blue carbon, or carbon captured by ocean and coastal ecosystems. Degradation of wetlands is causing a rapid loss of coastal carbon services, causing previous carbon “sinks” (meaning it absorbs more carbon than gives off) to become carbon “sources”.
Sutton-Grier urged listeners to support policy that reduces greenhouse gas emissions, protects coastal wetlands for climate mitigation benefits, and incorporates natural infrastructure into urban landscape and coastal resilience planning.
At ESSIC, Sutton-Grier is an ecosystem ecologist with expertise in wetland ecology and restoration, biodiversity, biogeochemistry, climate change, and ecosystem services. She also serves as the Director of Science for the MD/DC chapter of The Nature Conservancy.
To learn more about Sutton-Grier’s research, see her personal website at http://www.suttongrier.org/.