Climate change and development may combine to swamp tidal wetlands near the shore, according to a new report by the Regional Plan Association.

Robert Freudenberg, the vice president for energy and environment at the Regional Plan Association, says tidal wetlands are a crucial environmental component, providing clean water, absorbing storm water and wave damage during storms.

There are about 70,000 acres of tidal wetlands in New jersey, New York and Connecticut.

"Wetlands that grow in and around our coast, they do a tremendous service for us," he said. "They absorb carbon from the atmosphere [...] while serving as a nursery for important commercial fish species."

But Freudenberg warns that rising sea levels during this century may swamp tidal wetlands along the shore.

"We have made tremendous gains in the past few decades in protecting wetlands and ensuring that they are still there. And we have seen the benefits of that in species coming back, places that were polluted are less polluted. And we are seeing the beginnings of thriving ecosystems. But all of that is in peril now as we face climate change."

He says the good news is that time is on our side if we start to plan now.

"It just takes a little thinking while we have some time to plan for this, and we need to take advantage of that time."

The Regional Plan Association describes itself as an "urban research and advocacy organization. RPA works to improve the prosperity, infrastructure, sustainability and quality of life of the New York-New Jersey-Connecticut metropolitan region."

Joe Cutter is the afternoon news anchor on New Jersey 101.5.