One of the consequences of sea level rise in many coastal locations will be the inland migration of salt marsh. That is, of course, if these marshes are able to move fast enough to keep up with encroaching waters.
To date, however, there is relatively little data to help predict where marsh will be likely to survive rising seas and the factors that will help determine its chances.
In a new study, Yale researchers describe a novel methodology that tracks the inland movement of marshland by analyzing for microscopic fossils in the layers of sediment, a process that enabled them to identify marsh migration that might not be evident through other methods.
Writing in the journal Estuaries and Coasts
, the team, led by Shimon Anisfeld
of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES), reports on field experiments at two sites along the Connecticut shoreline. Using their new method, the researchers found that while salt marshes were moving upslope at both sites, they were moving at very different rates. Those different migration rates, they hypothesize, are likely driven by a range of factors— including the effects of large storm events.
Researchers hope their results, and this new methodology, will help improve modeling to predict a phenomenon that will affect coastal regions across the world, including along most parts of the U.S. Eastern Seaboard.