Salt marshes are usually wet places, covered with lots of plants—and, like other coastal ecosystems, they are exceptionally vulnerable to climate change (e.g., sea level rise and drought). When projects rebuild landscapes to bring back lost marshes (restoration), the starting point is a bare landscape. With no plants and no roots to hold in moisture and provide shade, the landscape is almost like a desert rather than a wetland. New plant seedlings have difficulty growing in the dry and salty conditions. And the effects of longer and more intense droughts can decrease the success of restoration projects.
This project will provide novel scientific information about drought effects on marsh restoration by looking at the causes of plant death and testing whether providing freshwater with temporary sprinklers can help jumpstart plant growth at restoration sites.
The project will directly enhance salt marsh restoration success at Elkhorn Slough, which is an enormously popular recreational destination in California, and provides outdoor access for the local disadvantaged rural communities. Elkhorn Slough habitats are critical as nurseries for juvenile fish, which are caught recreationally and commercially offshore, and play a key role in removing carbon dioxide from the air and storing it deep in estuary sediments, thereby slowing climate change. The results will help improve restoration of salt marshes nationwide in the face of climate change stressors, by highlighting the need for proactive management strategies to enhance resilience.
This research was funded by NIDIS through the FY 2022 Coping with Drought Competition – Ecological Drought. For more information, please contact Britt Parker (email@example.com).