Building a Stronger Coast
Recovery, restoration & building coastal resilience
Plum Tree Island National Wildlife Refuge - USFWS
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Building a predictive model for submerged aquatic vegetation prevalence and salt marsh resiliency in the face of Hurricane Sandy and sea level rise

Location: CT, DE, MD, NJ, NY, NC, RI, VA

Project type: Resilience

Funding awarded: $217,000

Project Summary

This research will study Hurricane Sandy's impact on submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) within the natural structures of salt marsh ecosystems; and as a result, the storm's impact on migratory waterfowl populations including Atlantic brant and American black duck.

Conservation Goals

  • Study how climate change and severe storms affect salt marsh ecosystems, SAV and the species that use them
  • Map SAV prevalence and build predictive models
  • Provide Federal lands with information to develop improved future management plans for increasing the resiliency of coastal habitats

Project Benefits

  • Establishes clear pre- and post-hurricane measurements of SAV prevalence and distribution and map them
  • Analyzes the effects of SAV fluctuation on dependent migratory waterfowl
  • Supplies marsh and wildlife managers with detailed models for optimal future planning

Project Partners

  • State Fish and Wildlife agencies
  • University of Delaware
  • Atlantic Flyway Council

Additional Details

The extent of damage to submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV—grasses that grow just beneath the surface of shallow water) from Hurricane Sandy is currently unknown. SAV provides habitat and protection from predators for fish and shellfish, food sources for migrating waterfowl and is responsible for several beneficial processes including oxygen production, nutrient and wave energy absorption and sediment settling and stabilization. This project will quantify and predict the presence of SAV pre-Sandy and post-Sandy and use average SAV availability to determine the effects of future sea-level rise scenarios on its presence. This information will aid in improving future management plans for the long-term enhancement of salt marsh natural defenses and species that depend on them.

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Last updated: April 11, 2018