200 Years. 200 Stories. Story 62: “Gauging Wetlands ”

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photo of scientist with a wetlands surface elevation table
Wetlands ecologist Dr. Tracy Quirk monitors a New Jersey wetlands with a surface elevation table that rests on the stable benchmark (the gray cylindrical object that is located in the center near the bottom margin of this photograph).

Gauging Wetlands

Led by Academy wetland ecologist Dr. Tracy Quirk, a team from the Patrick Center for Environmental Research is conducting long-term intensive monitoring of wetlands along the Delaware Bay and New Jersey Barnegat Bay. Wetlands are important because they protect coastal communities from storm surges and flooding, and they serve as habitats for fish and wildlife. Wetlands also help to reduce watershed nutrient inputs to estuaries and coastal oceans, which improves water quality and habitat for shellfish and fish. By identifying changes in the marshes’ surface elevation above sea level, plant communities, plant biomass, and soil and water chemistry, the team hopes to gain a better understanding of the health of wetlands, how humans impact wetland health, and whether wetlands are going to be sustainable in the future.

In this photograph, Quirk performs wetland monitoring using a surface elevation table at Island Beach State Park in Barnegat Bay, NJ. In this process, the team jackhammers stainless steel rods, or pins, down into the marsh until they meet resistance, leaving a stable benchmark against which Quirk can measure the elevation of the wetlands over time.

Learn more about the work of the Patrick Center.

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