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Riled Up is a journal of science, the environment, exploration, new technology, and related commentary.  Contributors include scientists, explorers, engineers, and others who provide perspectives and context not typically offered in general news circulation.  For interested readers, additional resources are included.

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Ecology Lessons

Ecology Lessons

Mangrove root systems  (credit: NOAA & the Ocean Portal)

Sometimes a simple demonstration offers the best way to appreciate the mechanics of a science underlying a phenomenon. They are particularly useful in ecology where ecosystem changes may unfold over several timelines. One ecological process is particularly important to understand considering rising sea levels due to climate change.

Coastal zones are protected from waves and storms by diverse eco-mechanisms: dense oyster beds once reduced the action of waves around New York City and the Chesapeake Bay; coral reefs serve the same function around tropical islands where they survive; seagrass beds and vegetated barrier islands once protected coastal states from erosion in Texas and Louisiana; and mangrove forests offer protection everywhere the semi-aquatic trees are found growing. All these natural protectors are threatened from one destructive situation or another.

The Dutch have long been interested in controlling the North Sea from flooding their lowland nation. First they devised windmills to pump-out water to create dry land and then they created dike systems to keep the sea from flooding back. They try to help similar low-laying countries with their historical experience. The Deltares Institute in The Netherlands created an elegant but simple installation to show how mangroves naturally protect coastal zones and beaches. Their installation has toured in Southeast Asia where mangroves are being converted into aquaculture farms and from other coastal developments. Their ecology demonstration presents the effects of the ecological process in 12-seconds that even a young child could comprehend. WHB

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