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Analysis of multi-decadal wetland changes, and cumulative impact of multiple storms 1984 to 2017

December 7, 2018

Land-cover classification analysis using Landsat satellite imagery acquired between 1984 and 2017 quantified short- (post-Hurricane Sandy) and long-term wetland-change trends along the Maryland and Virginia coasts between Metompkin Bay, VA and Ocean City, MD. Although there are limited options for upland migration of wetlands in the study area, regression analysis showed that wetland area increased slightly between 1984 and 2011, indicating that marsh aggradation rates were sufficient to maintain wetland elevation relative to mean sea level. Following Hurricane Irene (August 2011), the Halloween Nor’Easter (October 2011), and Hurricane Sandy (October 2012), wetland area decreased by more than 7 km2 compared with average pre-storm extents. We assume that Hurricane Sandy had the greatest impact due to the size and intensity of the storm. However, the cumulative effects of multiple storms within a short time period likely contributed to the greater observed losses in coastal wetlands relative to earlier periods. Five years after Hurricane Sandy, wetland area had not significantly recovered, but more time may be necessary to assess if the observed wetland losses will persist or if new growth within flooded marsh areas will be sufficient for the wetlands to recover to pre-storm extents. Comparisons of long-term and storm-driven wetland changes can lead to improved accuracy of habitat vulnerability models and greater understanding of potential impacts of future storms and SLR to coastal wetlands.

Publication Year 2018
Title Analysis of multi-decadal wetland changes, and cumulative impact of multiple storms 1984 to 2017
DOI 10.1007/s11273-018-9635-6
Authors Steven H. Douglas, Julie Bernier, Kathryn Smith
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Wetlands Ecology and Management
Index ID 70201227
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center