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Using geospatial analysis to guide marsh restoration in Chesapeake Bay and beyond

September 13, 2023

Coastal managers are facing imminent decisions regarding the fate of coastal wetlands, given ongoing threats to their persistence. There is a need for objective methods to identify which wetland parcels are candidates for restoration, monitoring, protection, or acquisition due to limited resources and restoration techniques. Here, we describe a new spatially comprehensive data set for Chesapeake Bay salt marshes, which includes the unvegetated-vegetated marsh ratio, elevation metrics, and sediment-based lifespan. Spatial aggregation across regions of the Bay shows a trend of increasing deterioration with proximity to the seaward boundary, coherent with conceptual models of coastal landscape response to sea-level rise. On a smaller scale, the signature of deterioration is highly variable within subsections of the Bay: fringing, peninsular, and tidal river marsh complexes each exhibit different spatial patterns with regards to proximity to the seaward edge. We then demonstrate objective methods to use these data for mapping potential management options on to the landscape, and then provide methods to estimate lifespan and potential changes in lifespan in response to restoration actions as well as future sea level rise. We account for actions that aim to increase sediment inventories, revegetate barren areas, restore hydrology, and facilitate salt marsh migration into upland areas. The distillation of robust geospatial data into simple decision-making metrics, as well as the use of those metrics to map decisions on the landscape, represents an important step towards science-based coastal management.

Publication Year 2024
Title Using geospatial analysis to guide marsh restoration in Chesapeake Bay and beyond
DOI 10.1007/s12237-023-01275-x
Authors Neil K. Ganju, Kate Ackerman, Zafer Defne
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Estuaries and Coasts
Index ID 70251046
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center