Throwing a Preserver to Salt Marshes
My time as an Environment for the Americas intern with US Fish and Wildlife is now reaching its final stages. Can you believe it? It makes me really sad to think about leaving this great refuge along with all the great people who do incredible work here. I guess time really does fly when you’re having fun! So, enough with the dramatics, let’s get into this weeks story!
I was lucky enough to fit another Seal Beach visit into my schedule, where I was able to help with Least Tern monitoring and visit to the sediment augmentation site.
I’ll give everyone a brief overview of the augmentation site’s purpose since Seal Beach NWR is the pilot project. Essentially, the reason that this project is happening is due to the fact that salt marsh habitats are drowning due to sea level rise (SLR). SLR that is occurring at Seal Beach NWR is causing the marsh to sink 3 times that of other nearby wetlands. Marsh habitat is an important ecosystem and if the marsh were to completely transition to mudflat, the effects on the Light-footed Ridgway’s Rail, who rely on the salt marsh plants, would be devastating.
Thus, a collaboration between US Fish and Wildlife, US Geological Survey (USGS), California Coastal Conservancy and other partners began, to try and combat the loss of salt marsh at Seal Beach through a process known as sediment augmentation. The process in a nutshell is adding a thin layer of freshly dredged material across the marsh site to increase elevation. This increased elevation in theory should combat the sinking of the salt marsh and promote the growth of plants such as cordgrass and pickleweed. An important point within this whole process is both physical and biological monitoring. So while I was up at Seal Beach, USGS was kind enough to let myself and other interns help out with the augmentation site monitoring.
We collected sediment cores with a peat borer, measured the depth of sediment deposition, recorded coordinates and elevations within surface elevation tables. In the future, scientists will return to the same location and measure how much sediment has accumulated on top of the thin feldspar horizon.