PS 25-110 - A race for survival; will salt marshes in Jasper and Beaufort County, South Carolina drown or keep pace with rising sea level?

Tuesday, August 8, 2017
Exhibit Hall, Oregon Convention Center
Gwen J Miller, School of the Earth, Ocean & Environment, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC and James T Morris, Belle Baruch Institute for Wetland & Coastal Sciences, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC

Salt marshes are diverse ecosystems that not only are aesthetically pleasing, but also provide protection from storm surges and hurricanes. The Carolina’s host the largest extent of salt marshes along the eastern seaboard, and are valued both environmentally and economically. Since salt marshes reside at low elevations along the coast their survival maybe impacted with sea level rise. These wetlands will be lost if they do not migrate upland or accrete at rates equal to or greater than sea level rise. The Marsh Equilibrium Model (MEM) is predictive tool that models salt marsh elevation over time in relation to sea level rise. Using a high resolution LiDAR dataset, MEM can highlight areas that are vulnerable to drowning and areas that will likely survive. Using MEM on a landscape scale, we analyzed salt marshes within Beaufort and Jasper Counties, South Carolina.


Results from this study spatially depicts areas that will likely survive and drown under high or low sea level rise scenarios. Land managers can use the results to determine regions that are best suited for conservation easements. Furthermore, the coast within Jasper and Beaufort County are tourist destinations, and homes are often built near marsh boundaries. Coastal zone managers can assess salt marsh regions that are vulnerable to sea level rise and implement more sustainable development or restoration projects to insure the continued coexistence between humans and salt marsh ecosystems.