Effect of Sea Level Rise and Climate Variability on Ecosystem Services of Tidal Marshes

EPA Grant Number: R832220
Title: Effect of Sea Level Rise and Climate Variability on Ecosystem Services of Tidal Marshes
Investigators: Craft, C. B. , Ehman, Jeffrey , Joye, Samantha , Park, Richard , Pennings, Steven
Institution: Indiana University - Bloomington , Eco Modeling , Pangaea Information Technologies, Ltd. , University of Georgia , University of Houston
EPA Project Officer: Hiscock, Michael
Project Period: April 1, 2005 through June 30, 2009
Project Amount: $749,974
RFA: Effects of Climate Change on Ecosystem Services Provided by Coral Reefs and Tidal Marshes (2004) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Ecosystems , Climate Change , Water , Aquatic Ecosystems , Ecological Indicators/Assessment/Restoration , Global Climate Change , Water and Watersheds


A conceptual model is presented that describes how ecosystem services of tidal marshes vary along the salinity gradient and how climate change will alter the delivery of ecosystem services. Accelerated sea level rise is predicted to lead to a reduction in marsh area and habitat conversion with the resultant reduction in ecosystem services of salt and brackish marshes and an almost complete loss of services provided by tidal freshwater marshes. Greater inter-annual variability of climate will lead to greater frequency of drought that reduces delivery of ecosystem services and freshwater pulsing which will enhance delivery of ecosystem services.


We will test the effects of rising sea level and greater inter-annual variability of climate on alteration of area and ecosystem services of tidal marshes in the Altamaha, Satilla and Savannah River estuaries (GA). Ecosystem services related to disturbance (shore protection) and gas regulation (CO2, CH4 flux), soil formation (C sequestration), nutrient regulation (N, P storage), waste treatment (sediment, denitrification), refugium and food (vegetation, nekton) will be measured in salt, brackish and tidal freshwater marshes of each estuary. GIS in conjunction with SLAMM (Sea Level Affects Marshes Model) will be used to predict changes in marsh area resulting from submergence and habitat conversion. Overlay of ecosystem-level data will be used to predict how cumulative ecosystem services in each estuary will be altered in response to incremental (10 cm) increases in sea level. SLAMM also will be used to predict changes in shore protection potential of marshes, commercial shrimp yields and the effects of dikes on delivery of ecosystem services. The results of the model will be scaled to the South Atlantic Coast (GA, SC) region. The effects of climate variability will be evaluated by analysis of climate (rainfall, temperature, salinity, freshwater discharge, average tide level) and ecosystem services data (vegetation, epifauna, accretion, sedimentation) collected biannually since 2000 from permanent plots of ten marshes of the GCE LTER study domain. Climate data for the region, including temperature, precipitation and river discharge extend back several decades and have been compiled by the GCE LTER program, allowing current patterns to be placed in historical context.

Expected Results:

This work will provide a basis to understand (1) how ecosystem services vary among salt-, brackish- and tidal fresh-water marshes, (2) determine how sea level rise will alter marsh area and delivery of ecosystem services, (3) evaluate the effect of dikes on delivery of ecosystem services and (4) elucidate how climate variability will affect temporal patterns of ecosystem services. A GIS-based model describing the effects of rising sea level on tidal marsh ecosystem services of river dominated estuaries will be produced.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 45 publications for this project

Journal Articles:

Journal Articles have been submitted on this project: View all 6 journal articles for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

Climate change, Wetlands, Indicators, Regionalization, Region IV, RFA, Scientific Discipline, Air, Ecosystem Protection/Environmental Exposure & Risk, Aquatic Ecosystems & Estuarine Research, climate change, Air Pollution Effects, Chemistry, Monitoring/Modeling, Aquatic Ecosystem, Ecological Risk Assessment, Atmosphere, environmental monitoring, environmental measurement, meteorology, climatic influence, global ciruclation model, global change, climate, tidal marsh, climate models, ecosystem indicators, aquatic ecosystems, environmental stress, coastal ecosystems, global climate models, coral reef communities, sea level rise, ecological models, climate model, ecosystem stress, South Atlantic Coast, Global Climate Change, atmospheric chemistry, climate variability

Relevant Websites:

Effect of Sea Level Rise and Climate Variability on Ecosystem Services of Tidal Marshes (PDF) (1 pp, 24 K)

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2005 Progress Report
  • 2006 Progress Report
  • 2007 Progress Report
  • 2008 Progress Report
  • Final Report