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US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes

Salt Marsh Integrity on Refuge Marshes

Region 5, October 2, 2012
Nekton sampling: Dia Windhoffer and Cody Meyer, Biology Interns at Forsythe this summer
Nekton sampling: Dia Windhoffer and Cody Meyer, Biology Interns at Forsythe this summer - Photo Credit: n/a

This summer refuges from Maine to Virginia are using a new tool to measure the health of salt marshes and the species that depend on them.

Salt Marsh Integrity (SMI) monitoring is a new system that measures birds, vegetation, fish, elevations, and tidal flooding to create an overall picture of a marsh.

SMI monitoring will allow USFWS scientists to compare year-to-year changes in a marsh as well as differences between marshes across the region. Data from SMI monitoring can help test everything from the effectiveness of water management practices to marshes’ resilience to climate change.

This season researchers from Moosehorn to Chincoteague jumped into tidal creeks after mummichogs, listened for breeding birds at dawn, and measured minute changes in the marsh surface with sophisticated instruments (along with many, many other tests). This hard work will continue in the coming years, helping expand our understanding of these important ecosystems.

Contact Info: Ward Feurt, 2076469226, ward_feurt@fws.gov