Marsh monitoring at the Reserve

The NERRs Sentinel Site Program is a system wide effort to understand the effects of changing water levels and tidal dynamics on the composition and distribution of marsh plant communities.  Changes in water level can be associated with increasing storm frequency and intensity, local changes in marsh elevation due to subsidence, and even sea level rise related to climate change.  Predicted increases in sea level will lead to more frequent and longer periods of marsh inundation which could eventually result in the conversion of marsh to open water.

One key piece of data needed to understand these effects is an accurate measurement of the elevation of the marsh surface.  To that end, Reserve staff have been busy collecting very accurate elevations in the areas surrounding our surface elevation tables.  Using a Real-time Kinematic GPS receiver, staff are able to assign coordinates and elevations to points in the marsh with less than a few inches of error.  By repeating these measurements across the marsh at points in a pre-determined grid and interpolating those points in a GIS, a detailed topographic surface of the marsh can be created.  This topographic surface, when coupled with vegetation measurements and detailed water levels, can be used as the basis of our understanding of the composition and distribution of the marsh.  By repeating these measurements over time, we can begin to model the long term viability of the marsh ecosystem in the face of rising water levels.

 

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Above, staff collect elevation measurements which will be used to monitor changes in the marsh over time.

 

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