Science Center Objects

Acceleration in sea-level rise and changing environmental stressors have important implications for the integrity of coastal wetlands and for efforts to restore and protect the ecosystem services they provide. Federal and state agencies need to make more detailed assessments of how different watersheds and shoreline types might influence an array of ecosystem functions and components and scientist are undertaking the study of sea-level rise in a variety of systems from Maine to Florida.

Collecting measurements from SET

SET – MH Station: Reading a surface elevation table – marker horizon (SET – MH) station in a Jamaica Bay, NY salt marsh. (Public domain.)

 

Surface Elevation Table

The Surface Elevation Table (SET) is a portable mechanical leveling device for measuring the relative elevation change of wetland sediments. This website presents information on the purpose, design, and use of the SET. The website is specifically designed to be a forum for researchers in wetland science who use or might use the device and to offer more information about the proper use of the SET and interpretation of its data. But we encourage anyone who wants to learn more about research techniques and their development to visit the site as well.

 

 

 

 

A hardened shoreline (rip-rap revetment)

Shorelines hardened with rocks or bulkheads have become a common site in the Chesapeake Bay. Yet, the implications of these changes are largely unknown. (Public domain.)

 

Shoreline Changes and Impacts to Natural Resources in Chesapeake Bay

Climate change and sea level rise are expected to affect many miles of shoreline in the Chesapeake Bay and elsewhere along the Atlantic Coast in the coming years. In this scenario, federal and state agencies need to make more detailed assessments of how different watersheds and shoreline types might influence an array of ecosystem functions and components. Recently, most states are promoting “living shorelines” (soft engineering with marsh vegetation) rather than hardening methods (riprap or bulkheads) to cope with sea level rise and erosion. Not all methods can effectively be applied in all locations; therefore both field and modeling approaches are needed to determine how different shoreline types and watershed conditions influence water quality, submerged vegetation (SAV), and macrofauna, including top-level trophic waterbirds.

 

 

Poplar Island Environmental Restoration Project

An early view of Poplar Island prior to the construction of current marsh habitat. (Public domain.)

 

 

 

Island Restoration, Sea Level Rise, and Waterbirds in Chesapeake Bay

For several decades, the US Army Corps of Engineers, along with numerous state and federal partners, have been creating and restoring islands with dredged materials from navigation channels in the Bay. Natural resources management goals have guided restoration plans for these islands since the mid 1990’s. The USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center has been the only USGS science research presence on the large (1700 acres) Poplar Island restoration project; Patuxent has been monitoring wildlife populations effort since 2002. Six species of breeding waterbirds of “special concern” to the states and region have been studied as they have colonized the restored site. This island is now a key habitat for waterbirds because sea level rise and erosion have eliminated many potential nesting islands in the Bay.

Environmental Drivers & Biogeomorphic Process Controls on Vertical Wetland Development

Wetland Development Model (Public domain.)

 

 

 

 

Improving Our Ability to Forecast Tidal Marsh Response to Sea Level Rise

Accelerations in sea-level rise and changing environmental stressors have important implications for the integrity of coastal wetlands and for efforts to restore and protect the ecosystem services they provide. Their persistence and adaptation to these stressors depends on the net effects of changes in physical processes and biotic responses. Future planning by decision makers will require scientifically sound forecasts of potential impacts, knowledge of sea-level rise thresholds, and indications of the potential effectiveness of various adaptation strategies.