First-Ever National Marsh Assessment Tool

The Takeaway: Research reserves determine methodology for calculating sea level rise impact on the marsh and test it in 16 locations. Methodology standardizes the effort and creates a national approach.

Estuaries nurture 75 percent of all the fish and shellfish harvested, and total fish catch in estuaries contributes $4.3 billion annually to the U.S. economy. Testing by 16 National Estuarine Research Reserves in 13 coastal states found that Pacific Coast tidal marshes are better positioned to thrive amid rising seas than those on the Atlantic Coast. These reserve scientists also produced the first-ever marsh assessment methodology for use throughout the coastal zone.

As part of this effort, the scientists developed a webpage with a “do it yourself” resilience calculator, study summary, and recommended actions for areas rated as most-resilient, moderately resilient, or least-resilient in terms of marsh health.

Presentations on the study and tool have reached U.S. audiences on three coasts, and the authors are now working to assess tidal marsh resilience at several U.S. Geological Survey sites.

Several research reserves participated in the development of this project, including Chesapeake Bay-Virginia; California’s Elkorn Slough; Rhode Island’s Narragansett Bay, and South Carolina’s North Inlet-Winyah Bay (study leader). NOAA’s Science Collaborative funded the effort, and the National Estuarine Research Reserve Association provided outreach assistance. (2017)

Partners: Ace Basin Reserve, Chesapeake Bay Reserve in Maryland, Chesapeake Bay Reserve in Virginia, Delaware Reserve, Elkhorn Slough Reserve, Grand Bay Reserve, Great Bay Reserve, Hudson River Reserve, Narragansett Bay Reserve, National Estuarine Research Reserve Association, North Carolina Reserve, North Inlet-Winyah Bay Reserve, Padilla Bay Reserve, San Francisco Bay Reserve, South Slough Reserve, Tijuana River Reserve, Waquoit Bay Reserve

Fast Fact: Did you know that of the 32 largest cities in the world, 22 are located on estuaries? For more statistics related to this story, check out Research Reserves and Wetland Benefits.