Stories From The Field

Assessing Gaps in Wetland Information to Strengthen Gulf Resilience

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Issue

Surface elevation tables shed light on the ability of coastal wetlands to keep up with sea level rise. These instruments are placed in wetland habitats and can detect increases and decreases in the elevation of the wetland. The tables are not evenly distributed across the Gulf region, though, and land managers need help selecting areas for future table placement.

Process

Partners in the Northern Gulf of Mexico Sentinel Site Cooperative worked together to support a gap analysis of existing surface elevation tables across the five Gulf states. Using a table inventory for the region, the partners focused on wetland areas owned or managed by federal or state agencies. NOAA’s Coastal Change Analysis Program data were used to identify different types of wetland habitats in these publically owned and managed areas, and digital elevation models were used to identify the elevations at which existing tables were placed in these habitats. Since coastal wetlands respond to inundation differently depending on the elevation, knowing the height of existing tables helps managers determine where there are gaps across the landscape. The data and models were also combined with precipitation and temperature data, and GIS analysis helped identify important gaps in the network of tables.

Impact

The results of the gap analysis will be shared with resource managers and funding agencies so that strategic decisions can be made about the future placement of surface elevation tables across the Gulf Coast region. Enhancements to the network of tables can reveal how different types of coastal wetlands will respond to sea level rise over time. (2016)

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Collecting surface elevation table data at Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve
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Surface elevation table in the marsh at Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve
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