Island life is infused with the rhythm of the sea. Wind and waves endlessly reshape the shoreline. Coastal erosion is a natural process that today is hastened by stronger storms, bigger storm surges and sea level rise.

In his book, A Meeting of Land and Sea, Nature and the Future of Martha’s Vineyard, ecologist and West Tisbury resident David R. Foster writes about erosion:

“Relentlessly, and unavoidably, Martha’s Vineyard is disappearing. Every year, on average, the spectacular south-shore beaches on this magnificent Island roll inland some three to five feet. As they do, the sea consumes fields, forest, coastal ponds and houses, if not moved. This loss of land represents one of the fastest rates of erosion on the eastern seaboard.”

We can stave off erosion by adding sand to the beaches, at least the less wild ones like State Beach, Bend in the Road and the Inkwell that abut busy roads, and by doing so we will also protect the scenic thoroughfares. We can restore eroding coastal dunes and banks. But such fixes are short-term. Retreat from the coast is inevitable.

Farther inland, where changes to the land from a warming world are quieter than those imposed by the sea, the Island is also under stress.

As the sea rises and the coast wears away, the land is sinking. Here and in much of New England it is subsiding, or gradually settling downward.

Ecosystems are in flux. Plants and pollinators are out of sync, new plants and southern pests are moving in, and extreme weather is challenging farmers.

Mr. Foster writes too about changes to the land: “History has . . . taught us that we must anticipate, cope with, and frequently accept changes and surprises . . . oaks and pines may die, our favorite bird, wildflower, and butterfly populations may wax or wane, and new species will undoubtedly arrive.”

Many of these changes are driven by human-induced climate change.

More frequent and severe short-term drought damages crops and increases the threat of wildfire. According to the Massachusetts Hazard Mitigation Plan, the Cape and Islands are at particular risk of wildfire in forests and areas of urban/forest interface while “sandy soils, which dry out quickly, increase the wildfire risk in this area.”

In addition to the loss of homes, trees and wildlife, the smoke from a wildfire can damage respiratory systems. And those at-risk forests, according to Mass Audubon, store an average of 85 tons of carbon per acre.

It is raining harder and more often than in the past. Heavy rainfall can delay spring crops and erode farm fields. A pounding rain doesn’t all seep into the soil to replenish our fresh water aquifer. Much of it runs into the road where it not only slows traffic but picks up pollutants and carries them into the ponds. Heavy rains cause basement flooding too, which prompts mold growth, which can in turn give rise to respiratory illness.

Mr. Foster notes that by expecting change we can better accommodate it. A simple way to brace for environmental change is to cultivate a healthy respect for the natural world.

We can stop excessively watering the land. By some estimates, a third of all residential water use is for lawn irrigation and up to 50 per cent of that goes to waste through evaporation, runoff and overwatering. Bright green lawns in August, when they should be dormant, are an affront to the natural order of things. Today we have a good supply of fresh water but increased drought, over-irrigation and development could burden the system.

The author Michael Pollan calls lawns “nature under totalitarian rule.” The Vineyard Conservation Society advocates for the Vineyard lawn, which consists of less actual lawn and more trees and shrubs that absorb and filter rainwater, and more plants that are suitable to local conditions and require less maintenance. That means no chemicals, more pollinator plants and fewer hard surfaces that cause road runoff.

To some homeowners, trees are impediments to a water view. To others, they are natural wonders. Their roots help keep the soil in place, they absorb carbon dioxide and provide wind breaks. As the world heats up, they offer valuable shade. Trees increase property values, add visual interest and help reduce heating and cooling costs.

On Island, regenerative agriculture practices on small farms can capture carbon while improving the quality of both the soil and crops.

Towns can better address the increase in storm and flood water by using green infrastructure: nature-based solutions that use plants, soil and gravel for retention and filtration. This beats the practice of piping it right into the ponds and ocean where it further hinders climate-stressed fish and shellfish.

The land, the finite space between the waves, is literally changing before our eyes. We can’t reverse the course of the shifting landscape but we can tend it and revere it.

After all, it is the land and the aquifer beneath it that provide us the food, shelter and water we need to survive.

Liz Durkee lives in Oak Bluffs.