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Mud on the Move: Predicting How Marshes Will Change as Sea Levels Rise

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Healthy tidal marshes support the food webs that underpin our fisheries; they mitigate the impact of coastal storms, and they improve water quality. However, as sea level rises, marshes are at risk from “drowning.” To survive, marshes must maintain their elevation relative to surrounding waters. They do this, in part, through accretion, a process by which sediment suspended in the water accumulates on the marsh’s surface. For marshes to survive, accretion must keep pace with sea level rise. Making decisions to support marsh sustainability depends on the ability to accurately measure suspended sediment concentrations, yet current monitoring programs lack well-tested, effective approaches to doing so.

The project team addressed this gap by developing a protocol to assess suspended sediment in tidal marshes, improve understanding of sediment dynamics, increase the accuracy of ecological models, and inform marsh conservation and restoration for the future.

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