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An often-underrated ecosystem supports millions of migratory birds, provides critical habitat for young salmon, absorbs carbon and plays an essential role in flood prevention. An ambitious project aims to draw on the power of the salt marsh, gradually raising its level to create a ‘living dike’ Biologist Eric Balke was biking through Richmond, B.C., a few years ago when something caught his eye. He stopped at the dike and looked over to the other side — and saw a huge salt marsh expanding in front of him. He was surprised he’d never known it was there. “I’m a biologist. I should have known better,” he mused. “It’s like you build a dike and that’s the end of the world, that’s the end of the area we care about.” “But these marshes are truly the gem of the Fraser estuary.” Salt marshes — coastal wetlands flooded and drained by salt water — can be found butting up against dikes throughout the Fraser River estuary, an internationally recognized centre of biodiversity with 17,000 hectares of wetlands. The sandy banks of salt marshes are filled with seagrass and low brush. Eagles fly overhead, eyeing sturgeon stranded on the bank. Packs of coyotes […]

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