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Salt marshes and tidal creeks maintain healthy water, protect coastal communities from flooding and erosion, provide nursery and essential habitat for commercial and recreational fisheries, and support recreational activities that are a part of the coastal lifestyle. This project seeks to educate K-12 students on the importance of restoring these ecosystems, using approaches that also meet current science curriculum standards. The Guana Tolomato Matanzas, ACE Basin, North Inlet, North Carolina, and Sapelo Island reserves will create a region-wide student-driven program for teachers that will further the understanding of restoring degraded or lost estuary habitats.
Climate change impacts on Alaskan coasts are occurring at a rate that is challenging the ability of resource-dependent businesses to respond and adapt. Climate change-induced threats to Alaskan fishing communities include changing oceanographic conditions of circulation and temperature, ocean acidification, and harmful algal blooms, as well as changing stream temperatures, turbidity, and nutrient conditions. Adequate resilience tools for local fishery-related businesses in Alaska have not yet been designed and implemented, which is a barrier to effective community resilience. These issues were identified in a series of climate resilience workshops the Kachemak Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve hosted for decision-makers in 2016 and 2017.
Tidal wetlands are recognized for their important role in carbon sequestration, as well as for their potential to become significant sources of greenhouse gas emissions when converted to other land uses. The substantial quantities of carbon captured and stored by tidal wetlands—termed “blue carbon”—is an ecosystem service of great interest to those developing regional, national, and global climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies, including carbon markets. While carbon stocks data have been collected in several parts of the world to quantify the carbon sequestration potential of tidal wetlands, there is a scarcity of such information in the Pacific Northwest. This project helps to fill this gap by conducting the first-ever comprehensive blue carbon assessment in Pacific Northwest tidal wetlands and generating a user-friendly database of regional blue carbon data. Input from end users will guide the design, scope, outputs, and outcomes of the project.
The Coos Bay estuary has a diverse set of end users who share a common need: to better understand circulation and sediment transport under current and future conditions. The estuary is one of three Oregon estuaries designated as “deep draft development,” which means that planners must balance industry, restoration, and natural resource goals. The project team’s primary research objectives are to fill data gaps that are critical to addressing their myriad management needs. These needs include characterizing the present-day sediment distribution, monitoring sediment fluxes to the estuary, and modeling how circulation and sediment in the estuary will respond to perturbations due to both natural and human-induced causes—such as dredging or inundation caused by sea level rise.
As the sixth largest estuary on the west coast, the Coos Bay estuary is one of Oregon’s most important ecological resources, both in its abundance, diversity, and quality and in the economic and cultural value it provides. However, modern management of the estuary and surrounding shorelands is based on the economic and social drivers of the 1970s, when local land use plans were developed. The surrounding community now agrees that current land use regulations need to evolve to reflect today’s economic and social drivers, while proactively addressing environmental changes and protecting natural resources.
The Jacques Cousteau National Estuarine Research Reserve convened a roundtable of mosquito control agencies to examine the intersection of sea level rise, salt marsh structure, habitat modification and restoration, and nuisance mosquito populations. A chief concern is how climate change and sea level rise may affect marsh habitats, subsequently increasing mosquito production. Also of concern is how past physical alterations meant to reduce mosquito habitat affect the ability of salt marshes to maintain their relative elevation, and, as a result, their long-term resiliency in the face of sea level rise. Recognizing the valuable role that salt marshes play in buffering coastal communities, coastal decision-makers are increasingly advocating for the restoration of salt marshes. While the thin-layer application of dredge spoil is of increasing interest as a way to help marshes keep up with rising sea levels, it could also greatly affect mosquito production.
Coastal communities are striving to safeguard themselves from increasing storm risks. One approach is to restore and manage natural features, including coastal wetlands such as Piermont Marsh on the Hudson River in New York. Residents believe Piermont Marsh significantly reduced wave and flood debris damage on the abutting Village of Piermont during Hurricane Sandy. Without the marsh, the financial impact of Sandy would likely have been far worse. Marsh managers and village leaders now seek to better understand the marsh’s capacity to buffer against waves, flood, and debris, and the economic values associated with these functions. In partnership with the local community, this project will design and apply state-of-the-art predictive models that will evaluate different approaches to managing the marsh.
Hundreds of dams built on tributaries of the Hudson River estuary currently hold substantial volumes of sediment and have altered the way that sediment moves through the system. Natural resource managers are interested in removing some of these dams to improve connectivity of aquatic habitats, restore fish spawning habitat, and reduce risks of dam failure. A high-priority management need of the Hudson River National Estuarine Research Reserve is to improve the scientific understanding of potential impacts that dam removals have on sediment transport in the estuary and deposition in
downstream tidal wetlands, including how these dam-derived sediments might help offset future sea level rise impacts.
This project will 1) quantify pathogens, nutrients, and sediment delivery to the Rachel Carson Reserve; 2) create predictive models for shellfish and recreational waters in the North Carolina Reserve by using this information, along with decades of historical data; 3) engage stakeholders and end users to prioritize management options; and 4) engage coastal decision makers, community members, K-12 students, and teachers in hands-on education on stormwater runoff and its impacts.
Keywords: NERRS, Rachel Carson Reserve, stormwater runoff
This project will assess the ecosystem services of shellfish farming by measuring impacts of newly established farms in the North Carolina Research Reserve. Because there is an opportunity to assess conditions before farm installation, North Carolina estuaries provide an ideal place to measure these effects. Two years of intensive sampling in and adjacent to oyster farms, concentrating on wild shellfish resources and the physical and chemical environment will aim to link small-scale changes with large-scale ecosystem-level alterations. Coastal managers, state agencies, and shellfish farmers will provide input throughout the course of the project to ensure that the study parameters align with decision-making needs. The project will culminate with the production of visualization tools and models to allow resource managers, culturists, and reserve staff members to make better decisions when determining the locations and scales of shellfish farming operations.