THE CHESAPEAKE BAY, VIRGINIA NATIONAL ESTUARINE RESEARCH RESERVE SENTINEL SITE PROGRAM: CLIMATE AND ANTHROPOGENIC IMPACTS ON RESERVE CRITICAL HABITATS.
Project Description: The Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve in Virginia (CBNERRVA; www.vims.edu/cbnerr) is engaged in understanding the vulnerability of critical emergent wetland habitats within the York River estuary to anthropogenic and climate related stressors. These habitat types are stressed by a number of factors including elevated sea level rise rates and salt intrusion. The Reserve is also focused on critical “ecotones” (e.g., water-marsh edge and marsh-maritime forest interface) and the implications for either the loss or gain of ecosystem services in these transitional environments. Through implementation of a NERRS-approved Sentinel Site monitoring program combined with historical shoreline and wetland change analysis based on aerial imagery, CBNERRVA is attempting to understand the physical conditions driving changes in wetland habitat type and develop strategies to increase adaptive capacity of these vulnerable critical habitats. In this project, the observational infrastructure includes emergent marsh transects to monitor changes in spatial distribution and community composition of vegetated habitats; Surface Elevation Tables (SETs) co-located with vegetation transects to monitor surface elevation changes over time; groundwater monitoring to evaluate salt intrusion and water table and flooding dynamics; multiple NERRS System-Wide Monitoring Program (SWMP) water quality stations, local geodetic control networks tied to the National Spatial Reference System (NSRS) and monitoring infrastructure so measurements are collected on the same vertical datum; multiple local meteorological stations; multi-decadal aerial image analysis of shoreline and vegetation community boundaries; and a locally derived sea level and salt intrusion model. The intern will assist in these various monitoring projects, working closely with faculty and staff scientists.