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A: SET concepts and Theory:
B: Types of SET devices:
   Rod SET (deep, shallow)

The SET is currently used in a variety of wetland and shallow water environments throughout the world.. SET's are currently used in the United States (22 states and the District of Columbia) and 22 countries worldwide.
[Central America]
[South America]
[W. Pacific]

Questions or Comments?
Don Cahoon
James Lynch


Surface Elevation Table (SET)
by Donald R. Cahoon, Ph.D and James Lynch

The Surface Elevation Table (SET) is a portable mechanical leveling device for measuring the relative elevation change of wetland sediments. This website presents information on the purpose, design, and use of the SET. The website is specifically designed to be a forum for researchers in wetland science who use or might use the device and to offer more information about the proper use of the SET and interpretation of its data. But we encourage anyone who wants to learn more about research techniques and their development to visit the site as well.

Precise measures of sediment elevation in wetlands are necessary to determine rates of elevation change, particularly relative to sea level rise, and to gain an understanding of the processes responsible for elevation change. The SET provides a nondestructive method for making highly accurate and precise measurements of sediment elevation of intertidal and subtidal wetlands over long periods of time relative to a fixed subsurface datum. This technique overcomes many of the limitations of methods currently used to estimate elevation such as sedimentation pins, and precision surveying.

There are 2 types of SET. The original SET designed by Boumans and Day (1993) and Cahoon et al. (2002a), and the Rod SET (RSET) designed by Cahoon et al. (2002b). The Rod SET can be attached to either deep or shallow benchmarks. This flexible design allows it to be used to to monitor elevations across different depths of the soil profile. The Rod SET is the recommended instrument to use in new SET installations.

Type of SET
Depth (m)
Original SET
~2 to 9
Rod SET - Deep
~2 to 25
Rod SET - Shallow
<1 to 2

Delta NWR
U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey,
Patuxent Wildlife Research Center | URL:
Last Updated: 23 June 2010
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