Recently, the Northern Gulf of Mexico Sentinel Site Cooperative (NGOM SSC) published a report identifying the gaps in Surface Elevation Table (SET) data for the Gulf of Mexico. The report can be accessed on the NGOM SSC website, www.ngomssc.org, under Gulf SLR Assets.
Wetland elevation is a critical component to understanding current and future quality and quantity of wetlands in coastal systems facing sea level rise. To an extent, wetlands can adjust to increasing sea levels via vertical movement and landward migration. However, this adaptation requires a balance of many processes, and wetlands are not always able to keep pace. Seasonal monitoring of vegetation and elevation allow natural resource managers to understand how wetlands are responding to sea level rise. SETs are mechanical leveling devices attached to benchmarks; these, paired with marker horizons, can measure vertical accretion, root zone expansion, shallow subsidence and other processes with millimeter accuracy. SETs provide data on how wetlands are responding to changes in sea level.
The NGOM SSC partnered with U.G. Geological Survey (USGS), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (US FWS), and the NOAA Gulf Regional Collaboration Team (GRCT) to identify important gaps in SET coverage along the northern Gulf of Mexico. The NGOM SSC, led by its partners at USGS, compiled an inventory of SETs across the Gulf of Mexico and evaluated the distribution of SET stations across political boundaries, habitat types, and ecologically-relevant abiotic gradients (e.g., elevation, temperature, precipitation, relative sea-level rise). The US FWS and GRCT leveraged funds for an internship and a fellowship to expand upon those analyses and use the inventory to identify priority zones for new SETS on publicly managed lands in Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. Excluded from the final analysis was Louisiana due to the Coast Wide Reference Monitoring System (CRMS) that has an extensive monitoring program already in place.
The report of the gap analysis is available on NGOM SSC’s website, www.ngomssc.org. Data layers will be available in the NGOM SSC’s data gallery on the Gulf Coastal Plains and Ozarks LCC’s Conservation Planning Atlas. A manuscript from the inventory was also developed and submitted for publication. In addition to the SET gap analysis, NGOM SSC completed an inventory of continuous operating reference stations (CORS) to further the understanding of existing infrastructure in the Gulf of Mexico necessary for accurate observations related to sea level rise.
Contributed by Casey Fulford, Intern and Renee Collini, Coordinator NGOM SSC