Getting Dirty to Understand Salt Marsh Dieback

EarthzineDEVELOP Fall 2013 VPS, DEVELOP Virtual Poster Session, Original

Team Location: University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia

Time series analysis of salt marsh habitats across the Georgia Coast. Image Credit: Georgia Ecological Forecasting Team, NASA DEVELOP National Program.

Time series analysis of salt marsh habitats across the Georgia Coast. Image Credit: Georgia Ecological Forecasting Team, NASA DEVELOP National Program.

Authors:

Shuvankar Ghosh, Project Lead (University of Georgia)

Jiaying He (University of Georgia)

Ning Chen (University of Georgia)

Pradeep Kumar (University of Georgia)

Mentors/Advisers:

Deepak Mishra, Ph.D. (University of Georgia, Geography Department)

Steve Padgett-Vasquez (University of Georgia, Geography Department)

Past/Other Contributors:

Auryn Baruch (University of Georgia)

Joe White (Bethune-Cookman University)

Abstract:

A third of the salt marshes on the U.S. eastern seaboard can be found in Georgia. Salt marshes are highly productive ecosystems that provide habitat and nutrition to wildlife, offer protection from flooding and storm surges and help filter polluted runoff from upland areas. This study demonstrated the ability to identify ‰ÛÏhotspots‰Û of early stages of marsh degradation which can only be delineated by evaluating marsh biophysical characteristics including distribution of chlorophyll content, green leaf area index and green vegetation fraction. These biophysical characteristics are primary indicators of photosynthetic capacity, nitrogen content, and physiological status of vegetation. Using NASA’s Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) sensor onboard the Terra satellite, the above described biophysical characteristics were retrieved in Georgia salt marshes. Phenological time series analysis was done on site-specific patches of salt marsh, to analyze the efficiency of MODIS data in picking up marsh stress signals. This work is significant because it allowed the team for the first time to use NASA satellite data to study the biophysical characteristics and health of salt marshes on the Georgia coast. The results of the study show an efficient and non-destructive biophysical mapping protocol for emergent wetlands to be used in restoration decision-making by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

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