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Accession Number 5004073

Title Habitat displacement and sea level change

Project Description There is a critical need for information that will enable managers to better respond to the rapid

rates of sea level rise along the east and gulf coasts of the United States. The projected rates of of

inundation due to sea level rise are thought to exceed the capability of coastal wetlands to

respond to increasing water depth and salinity thus limiting the availability of critical habitat. The

Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge near Cambridge, MD is an example of a coastal refuge

affected by sea level rise. Encroachment of wetlands and inundation of former settlements and

agricultural uplands has been documented suggesting that the marsh/upland ecotone has been

transgressing upslope in accordance with past models. However, Blackwater NWR has lost over

60% of the wetlands within the boundaries of the refuge since 1938 questioning the ability of the

current marsh to respond to sea level rise by transgression upslope. We need to understand and

model the response of coastal wetlands to past, present, and future sea level rise. We will test the

null hypothesis that the marsh/upland ecotone has been migrating inland over the past several

centuries and will continue to do so for the forseeable future. We will use a combination of

geologic and biological studies to track past time and space migration of this ecotone and

examine its continuity with ongoing inundation and ecosystem change.Eighteen months of data

on elevation and sediment accretion have been collected from three sites at Blackwater NWR

representing different topographic environments. Vegetation, elevation transects, and bimass data

have been collected. This information will next be used in modeling exercises to determine the

long-term prospects for elevation gain or relative sea-level rise impacts in these sites.

Keywords accretion, modelling, sea-level, transgression, wetland,

Principal Glenn Guntenspergen, USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center:

Investigators; Donald Cahoon, USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center:; Curt Larsen, Eastern Earth Surface Processes Team:;

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