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).

  Researchers across the reserve system compared results from new YSI in situ sensor technology to existing practices for measuring chlorophyll – developing protocols and recommendations designed to catalyze the NERRS System-wide Monitoring Program into the nation’s most comprehensive algal bloom monitoring program. 

The project

Northeastern Florida and the Guana Tolomato Matanzas NERR have some of the most intact estuarine ecosystems in the southeastern United States; however, some areas are expected to need targeted management to stabilize land, protect habitat, and maintain surface elevation relative to sea level rise. To promote coastal wetland resilience, the GTM NERR land managers are prioritizing surface elevation and exploring proactive techniques for wetland restoration. This project aimed to help land managers better understand and prioritize their options for maintaining or increasing wetland surface elevation in the area’s most vulnerable sites. 

This project leveraged a larger National Science Foundation funded project WETFEET and explored 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 used remote sensing and field data to develop a coastal vulnerability index assessment map for GTMNERR managers to identify sites that are most at risk of inundation and erosion. The Experimenting with Elevation project brought together regional scientists and land managers in two workshops to explore the effectiveness of coastal elevation management options and plan for targeting wetland restoration pilot projects. 

The impact

  • This work catalyzed a new collaborative restoration planning project occurring between the GTMNERR, University of Central Florida and Villanova University to investigate how oyster rakes are impeding flow into vulnerable wetlands, which were both identified  by the coastal vulnerability index.