Paper No. 332-3
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-6:30 PM
UNDERSTANDING CLIMATE-INDUCED CHANGES IN FORESTED WETLANDS IN NORTH CAROLINA: PRELIMINARY RESULTS
Coastal wetlands provide critical ecosystem services such as carbon sequestration, flood and storm protection, nutrient filtering, and productive nurseries for a variety of important flora and fauna. The goal of this study is to understand how forested coastal wetlands within the Albemarle-Pamlico peninsula of eastern North Carolina are undergoing change as a result of salt water intrusion events caused by drought, storms, and sea level rise, and the impact on these ecosystem services. Saltwater intrusion can cause loss of trees and other flora, creation of “ghost forests,” marshes, and open water. We are using a combination of soil biogeochemical analyses to understand changes in nutrient cycle; geospatial analysis of spectral data to map wetland change; and citizen science applications for collecting pictures and locations of cypress trees to understand the health of coastal freshwater forested wetlands and where they are transitioning to lowland brackish and saltwater marshes. Analyses are being conducted along multiple transects crossing the transition zones from forested wetlands to marshlands in order to determine indicators and rates of change. Our preliminary work shows that using a combination of these methods can identify transition zones within coastal wetland areas on a local, targeted scale. We hope that future analyses will help us characterize the affect of salt water intrusion on forested wetlands and develop a regional scale method for mapping transition zones that can be applied to other coastal areas and be useful for resource management.