South Atlantic Blueprint Team and Southeast Climate Adaptation Science Center co-sponsored Science Seminar (Third Thursday Web Forum)
Speaker: Dr. Michelle Moorman, US Fish & Wildlife Service
Coastal wetland ecosystems provide critical habitat for many of the U.S. FWS's trust species, and they deliver important ecological functions. Two recognized threats to coastal wetland stability and the wildlife that depend on these ecosystems are the projected acceleration of rates of sea-level rise (SLR) and/or wetland subsidence. Uncertainty over the future of our coastal wetlands, particularly when considering static SLR inundation models, has motivated the U.S. FWS National Wildlife Refuge System to undertake systematic monitoring of coastal wetlands in NWRs across the country to determine if they will be resilient to SLR or undergo an ecological transformation. This will provide one piece of critical information needed to identify management actions needed to resist, accept or direct ecological transformations of coastal wetlands in the NWR system (Ezer and Atkinson 2014; Beckett et al. 2016).
Coastal Wetland Elevation Monitoring (CWEM) Program has monitored site-specific surface elevation and accretion trends for priority coastal wetland habitats on NWR across the South Atlantic Basin since 2012. We have determined rates of wetland elevation change and compared them to NOAA estimates of sea level rise across four coastal habitat types: oligohaline marshes, salt marshes, forested wetlands, and pocosin wetlands. In the long run, this effort will improve our understanding of processes that may be contributing to the resilience or lack thereof within each coastal wetland type. Results also will help managers make ecologically informed decisions with respect to conservation and management on refuges, such as whether restoration or transformative actions should be considered for implementation.