Synthesizing Monitoring Data to Improve Coastal Wetland Management Across New England

  • Climate change and sea level rise threaten salt marshes in New England and other coastal regions. Photos from 2008 (left) and 2018 (right) show loss of marsh at Crommet Creek, Great Bay, NH.

    Climate change and sea level rise threaten salt marshes in New England and other coastal regions. Photos from 2008 (left) and 2018 (right) show loss of marsh at Crommet Creek, Great Bay, NH.

  • Understanding changes in marsh vegetation and elevation can help coastal managers better protect and restore these important ecosystems.

    Understanding changes in marsh vegetation and elevation can help coastal managers better protect and restore these important ecosystems.

  • This project synthesized existing salt marsh monitoring data from four New England National Estuarine Research Reserves to evaluate regional trends.

    This project synthesized existing salt marsh monitoring data from four New England National Estuarine Research Reserves to evaluate regional trends.

  • The project created standardized data packages, reports and visualizations, such as these pie charts showing plant community changes from 2010 to 2017.

    The project created standardized data packages, reports and visualizations, such as these pie charts showing plant community changes from 2010 to 2017.

  • These tools will help reserves identify marshes experiencing the greatest climate impacts and monitor the results of management actions.

    These tools will help reserves identify marshes experiencing the greatest climate impacts and monitor the results of management actions.

Sea level rise and climate change present major threats to salt marshes across the continental United States. A better understanding of their impacts on marsh vegetation and sediment accretion can help coastal managers improve the management, protection, and restoration of these important ecosystems. Since 2011, the National Estuarine Research Reserve System has been monitoring salt marsh vegetation and elevation changes through the Sentinel Site Application Module. This project conducted the first regional synthesis of Sentinel Site data for four New England reserves (Great Bay, Narragansett, Waquoit Bay, and Wells). It developed statistics-ready data packages linking vegetation change over time with elevation, inundation, tide range, and other factors. The project team recommended improvements to the Sentinel Site protocol and established a methodology for analysis of marsh conditions that can be used by other National Estuarine Research Reserves and coastal managers nationwide. The project’s analysis revealed trends in New England salt marsh vegetation and surface elevation changes over time that are being used to inform regional salt marsh management and conservation.