Sentinel Monitoring of Salt Marshes in the South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve
The South Slough NERR, along with four other NERRs, is acting as a sentinel site to monitor climate change impacts on salt marsh habitat. This project involves creating a long-term ecological monitoring program to determine the effects of sea level rise, warmer temperatures, and coastal storms on salt marshes.
The South Slough NERR is comprised of a mix of open water channels, freshwater wetlands, tidal and salt marshes, and forests. Key management issues for the reserve include habitat degradation, watershed health, invasive and non-native species introductions, and climate change. One of the overriding goals of the South Slough NERR is to use an adaptive management approach in addressing these concerns. The reserve is also part of a national effort, created in 2007, to establish salt marshes as long-term reference sites at five reserves (Narragansett; Wells, Maine; Chesapeake Bay, Virginia; North Carolina; South Slough, Oregon). In addition, the reserve, along with other NERRs, participates in the System Wide Monitoring Program (SWMP), tracking changes in water quality, plants, animals, and habitats within the reserve over time. Salt marshes on the west coast of the United States are fairly sparse and small in acreage; Oregon has approximately 7,000 acres of salt marsh. These marshes provide valuable habitat and refuge for fish, crabs, and other wildlife, and important ecosystem services by filtering water and protecting shorelines from erosion during strong coastal storms. This habitat is threatened by climate change; impacts of concern include sea level rise, warmer temperatures, more intense and frequent coastal storms, salinity intrusion, and erosion.
This project is funded through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association and has two goals: 1) use natural marshes as references to understand what is happening at restored marshes, and 2) use these natural reference sites to understand how marshes across the United States are responding to the impacts of climate change. The reserve is monitoring salt marsh characteristics (e.g., salinity, vegetation cover, flow patterns, peat soils) at natural marsh reference sites and recently restored marsh sites every year to track water levels and marsh height in order to determine if and how salt marshes can respond to sea level rise and other climate impacts.
Outcomes and Conclusions
This project will provide a long-term data set on salt marsh response to climate change impacts and inform a broader national effort. This information can be used in other restoration efforts.
Gregg, R. M. (2010). Sentinel Monitoring of Salt Marshes in the South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve [Case study on a project of the South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve]. Product of EcoAdapt's State of Adaptation Program. Retrieved from CAKE: http://www.cakex.org/case-studies/sentinel-monitoring-salt-marshes-south... (Last updated March 2010)