Salt marshes which form a natural defence against the impact of climate change could die out before the end of the century, scientists have warned.
A study into coastal vegetation predicts that warmer temperatures will encourage the plants to grow until around 2075, but a simultaneous rise in sea levels means they are likely to drown by the year 2100.
Researchers at the universities of Edinburgh, Virginia and California said salt marshes are effective at removing carbon dioxide from the air and lock away as much carbon as about a third of the world’s forests.
Their loss is expected to contribute to the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere and, consequently, increase global warming.
Dr Simon Mudd, of Edinburgh’s School of GeoSciences, said: “Salt marshes are extremely effective at removing carbon and it is worrying that they could all but disappear.”