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Gulf Coast Wetland Resilience and Management

Coastal marsh elevation is directly linked to sustainability. What processes influence elevation in managed marshes?

Coastal marsh loss is a growing issue along the Gulf Coast as rising sea levels and climate change further endanger wetlands negatively affected by human industry and sediment restriction. Managed marshes are particularly vulnerable as management practices designed to provide habitat for waterfowl may lead to declining marsh elevation. Elevation influences how much flooding and salt stress marshes are exposed to, and how resilient those marshes are to further sea level rise and climate change. However, we don't fully understand how management practices influence the processes that drive marsh surface elevation.

This study is focused on understanding how marsh elevation and resilience is influenced by system hydrology, plant community, and management practices. We measured surface elevation change, accretion, plant root productivity, and decomposition at 23 sites at two locations in coastal Louisiana and Texas.

These sites also experienced significant impacts from Hurricanes Laura and Delta in the fall of 2020. We assessed site recovery and resilience to provide insight on how management and elevation influence marsh recovery following hurricane landfall.

By developing a better understanding of the how plant community, changing environmental conditions, and management practices influence elevation, we hope to inform management decisions that allow managers to provide habitat for waterfowl while increasing marsh elevation and resilience in a changing climate.

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