Land Claiming and Degradation:
Based on research by Hayoon Chung, MIT ’16
A large portion of what is now the city of Boston used to be mud flats and salt marshes. However, they were heavily polluted and nearly destroyed, so much that it was affecting the health of nearby residents. The city decided to get rid of that area altogether by filling it in and turning it into solid land.
The Shawmut peninsula was originally surrounded by mudflats and saltmarshes, serving as a buffer and filter for the land. The services that the salt marsh provided included: making available fresh water and making the peninsula an area that many people wanted to live in. As more people began to move into the peninsula, the need for more living space increased. Beginning in 1820 the city began to reclaim land; the area of Boston was doubled by 1900 during which many of the salt marshes and mudflats were covered and destroyed.
Back Bay, South End, and Fenway-Kenmore are all neighborhoods that resulted from the project. (The BackBay Fens is a remnant of the salt marshes.) Now over 600,000 people live in Boston, with 18,000 living in Back Bay, 26,000 in the South End, and 34,000 in Fenway.
Boston is one of the many coastal cities that are at risk of severe flooding due to global warming, sea level rise, and extreme weather events. Slowly but surely the sea level has been creeping upwards daily, affecting basements, sewers, piers, beaches, wetlands, and low-lying roads. If this rise in sea level is allowed to continue bi-monthly flooding will submerge much of Boston, as well as parts of Cambridge, due to astronomically high tides. There is great need to be proactive in order to reduce the vulnerability of the earth to climate change. Without the salt marshes to protect the coast and take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, storms will continue to surge further inland than ever before.
image from: http://www.tbha.org/document/sea-level-rise-presentation