Experimenting with Elevation: Building a New Collaboration to Explore Management Options for Wetland Elevation Maintenance

  • A visual depiction of four possible strategies for wetland elevation management we will explore in our new collaboration.

    A visual depiction of four possible strategies for wetland elevation management we will explore in our new collaboration.

  • One of the study marshes in northeastern Florida.

    One of the study marshes in northeastern Florida.

  • Some of the team members that are involved in a complementary NSF project (WETFEET).

    Some of the team members that are involved in a complementary NSF project (WETFEET).

As coastal ecosystems continue to suffer the onslaught of rising seas and big storms, land managers are exploring proactive techniques to promote coastal wetland resilience. Northeastern Florida and the Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve have some of the most intact estuarine ecosystems in the southeastern United States; however, some areas are expected to need targeted management action to stabilize land, protect habitat, and maintain surface elevation relative to sea level rise. This project aims to help regional land managers better understand their options for maintaining or increasing wetland surface elevation in the area’s most vulnerable sites.

This project—which leverages a larger National Science Foundation funded project WETFEET—will explore the effectiveness of four coastal elevation management options: (1) thin-layer sediment deposition, (2) berm redistribution, (3) living shorelines, and (4) facilitation of mangrove encroachment. The team will use remote sensing and field data to refine an existing coastal vulnerability assessment and map vulnerable sites within the reserve. Over the course of this one-year project, the team will bring together land managers and regional scientists to share their diverse experiences with restoration and collaboratively identify wetland management priorities, pilot sites, and restoration techniques for use within Guana Tolomato Matanzas Reserve. New maps of wetland vulnerability and project workshops will help the reserve prioritize sites and methods for wetland elevation restoration projects and help build a better regional understanding of wetland elevation management.