Off the Texas Gulf Coast, a string of tiny islands – many uninhabited by people – provide important habitat for waterbirds. Egrets and herons make nests in trees and shrubs, while terns and black skimmers nest on the shores.

“Some islands have tens of birds. Other islands have tens of thousands of birds returning to them each year,” says Alexis Baldera of Audubon Texas.

Audubon Texas owns or leases more than 175 of these islands so they can be maintained as bird sanctuaries.

Most of the islands are manmade, created out of dredged sediment during the construction of the Intracoastal Waterway. Over the decades, birds have increasingly used them as nesting grounds, because they are safe from predators and human disturbance.

But the islands are losing ground to erosion, heavy storm damage, and sea-level rise.

“It’s a huge impact, and without any sort of restoration of the islands that are there, some of our bird sanctuaries will be underwater,” Baldera says.

So Audubon and its partners are adding more dredged sediment to some of the islands to increase their elevation and keep pace with sea-level rise.

Baldera says that making these islands higher will help maintain the nesting habitat that the birds now depend on.

Also see: What you need to know about the link between sea-level rise and coastal flooding

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media