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How ecotourism and investing in nature can protect Southern Delaware’s natural resources

The wetland at the St. Jones Reserve near Dover.
Delaware Public Media
The Green
The wetland at the St. Jones Reserve near Dover.

There’s more than meets the eye in Southern Delaware. In addition to beautiful beaches and bayside getaways, it’s actually home to a plethora of rich natural resources.

But the threat of climate change, sea level rise, and development is putting those resources in communities like Milford and Slaughter Beach at risk if they don’t work to protect and sustain them. A new report details how ecotourism and nature-based investments can help, and make the area more resilient to coastal hazards.

Delaware Public Media’s Joe Irizarry is joined this week by Delaware Sea Grant Coastal Hazards Specialist Danielle Swallow to talk about it.

Delaware Public Media’s Joe Irizarry discusses how Southern Delaware's nature can be protected with Coastal Hazards Specialist Danielle Swallow

Southern Delaware can boast about more than just its beaches and bayside. It has plenty of other natural resources - resources some are working to protect from climate change and sea level rise.

Milford and Slaughter Beach are home to marshes, different habitats, a bay beach environment, as well as the Mispillion River and Cedar Creek. One study referenced the region as a coastal stronghold.

A recent report found how valuable those resources are to the state.

"And we found that the resources generate millions of dollars in value back to the community and to the state each year. That could be through birding and recreational fishing and biking and so forth," said Delaware Sea Grant coastal hazard specialist Danielle Swallow

But both are vulnerable to flooding from storms and sea level rise. Delaware has seen over a foot of sea level rise in the past 100 years with a similar raise expected in the next 30 years.

Swallow says the effects of climate change are already visible in Slaughter Beach.

"I think that folks are sort of feeling the impact of climate change a bit more now these days. Slaughter Beach is seeing higher rates of erosion. There's parts of town that are really seeing quite a lot of scarping of the dunes that are there and beach loss. In addition, there are days when the only two access roads in and out of Slaughter Beach could potentially be inundated and cutting off access," said Swallow.

Swallow notes the expectation is for the frequency of the flooding to increase.

She adds that while the marshes and waterways may cause issues, they also help mitigate flooding, but that assistance could be reduced by continued development.

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Joe brings over 20 years of experience in news and radio to Delaware Public Media and the All Things Considered host position. He joined DPM in November 2019 as a reporter and fill-in ATC host after six years as a reporter and anchor at commercial radio stations in New Castle and Sussex Counties.