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As sea levels rise and storms become more extreme, seawater is increasingly inundating coastal marshes. That can disrupt the ecosystem. And over time, some low-lying marshes may end up completely underwater.

So the Army Corps of Engineers is experimenting with ways to increase the elevation of marshes that are at risk.

In a pilot project in Georgia, they took mud and silt from a dredging project that deepened Jekyll Creek. Then they sprayed that sediment on a low-lying marsh nearby.

“And so we put about 5,000 cubic yards over five acres, anywhere from about six inches deep to a foot, to try to proactively maintain that marsh environment,” says Clay McCoy.

McCoy is with the Regional Sediment Management Center of Expertise, which supports the South Atlantic Division of the Army Corps of Engineers.

He says scientists continue to monitor the marsh to see how the ecosystem responds. But he’s optimistic that scaling up this approach could help make marshes in the southeast more resilient to climate change.

“We know that in many cases marshes are drowning due to sea-level rise, and this is a solution to get sediment into those marshes and keep the elevations up so that we don’t lose them in the future,” he says.

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media