Coastal Marsh Response to Climate and Land Use Change
Researcher collecting field data in an intensive study plot in the Fishing Bay Wildlife Management Area in Dorchester County, Maryland. This is one of fourteen intensive study sites in the coastal wetlands project network.
This project employs a series of controlled mesocosm and field experiments, landscape scale studies, a network of coastal wetland monitoring sites, and a suite of predictive models to understand and forecast the vulnerability of coastal wetland systems to global change and identify ways that managers might implement adaptation practices to respond to global change effects. This project is developing an understanding of linkages and feedbacks between physical and biological processes that control stability of coastal marshes, specifically how marshes maintain surface elevations relative to sea level. We are determining how external forcing functions, such as elevated atmospheric CO2, sea level rise, and nutrients, affect ecosystem stability and resilience. We have established and are collecting data from a network of brackish coastal marshes to establish trends in coastal marsh elevation, physical and biological processes contributing to those trends, and response of coastal elevation to manipulative experiments of driving variables. We are using field and greenhouse experiments to parameterize a landscape biogeomorphic model of marsh development to forecast responses of coastal marshes to changes in external forcing functions, identify threshold responses, and identify early warning signs of ecosystem collapse. This research will be incorporated into a decision support process that natural resource managers and policy makers can use to better evaluate and implement adaptation options to SLR.
Why is this research important?
Under estimates for rapid sea-level rise, many coastal wetlands world-wide are projected to submerge by the end of the 21st century. This project aims to support the development of high quality data to support coastal conservation policy.
Principal Investigator: Glenn R. Guntenspergen
Project Team: Donald Cahoon, Robert Derby, Patrick Brennand, Jessica Nagel, Matthew Kirwan, James Grace, Karen McKee, William Vervaeke, Tanisha Touchet, Donald Schoolmaster, Jr., Darren Johnson