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Salt marsh Habitat and Avian Research Program (SHARP)

Tidal wetlands after Hurricane Sandy: baseline restoration assessment and future conservation planning

A collaborative effort to assess risks and set response priorities for tidal-marsh dependent bird species from Virginia to maritime Canada.

With more than 1,500 sampling sites for estimating bird abundance and plant community composition, 22 sampling sites for estimating species fecundity and survival, and 651 sampling points for measuring salt marsh elevation, the Salt marsh Habitat and Avian Research Program is an unprecedented undertaking to characterize threats to tidal-marsh dependent bird species along the entire mid-Atlantic coastline.

Originally initiated in 2011 by a team of scientists looking to align efforts towards understanding threats to salt marsh birds across the region SHARP had enough data in hand to develop a clear snapshot of tidal marshes before the Hurricane Sandy struck the coast in 2012, and a baseline for understanding future impacts of climate change to these systems.

Though the team had used all of their initial funding to carry out the two-year data-collection effort, money from the National Science Foundation came through to enable another survey in 2013, and then Department of the Interior Hurricane Sandy Funding coordinated by the North Atlantic LCC and Fish and Wildlife Service Divisions of Migratory Birds and Refuges came through to support additional field seasons through 2016.

General Project Goal/Purpose:

(1) Compile and summarize initial results of assessments of impacts of Hurricane Sandy on tidal marshes and marsh-dependent species; (2) Compile regionally-consistent spatial data including elevation, tidal restrictions, ditches, and hardened structures; (3) Monitor and assess the effectiveness of tidal wetland restorations completed in response to Hurricane Sandy for increasing resiliency of marshes and marsh species to future storms and sea level rise and use this information to develop best management practices for future restorations and prioritize locations with the highest likelihood of success

Specific Objectives:

A. Collect baseline data on tidal marsh bird and vegetation communities in 2015-16 to enable quantification of the efficacy of Hurricane Sandy restoration projects using a standardized set of protocols that allow both integration with similar work already planned for many National Wildlife Refuges and comparison with their larger regional data set (a network of >1500 locations sampled annually in 2011-14). 

B. Collect detailed, high resolution, marsh elevation data in association with the existing sampling network and at new study sites associated with restoration evaluation and compare results to LiDAR data.

C. Generate a detailed, ground-truthed high marsh/low marsh  map for tidal marshes throughout the region in order to facilitate both the evaluation of restoration work and future resiliency planning.

D. Integrate their work with that of other LCC partners in order to improve regional conservation planning.

E. Synthesize results of the initial assessment of restoration effectiveness.

LCC Staff Contact: , Science Coordinator

As of April 2018, some final products have been completed and the remaining reports and datasets are being finalized.

Progress Reports

SHARP 1st Qtr 2015: Tidal wetlands after Hurricane Sandy; 2nd Qtr 2015; January-June 2016

Department of Interior Hurricane Sandy Funding

Coastal Virginia to maritime Canada

The Tidal Marsh Vegetation Classification component of the project has been completed. Layers describing six vegetation cover types and two bordering cover types found within coastal marsh areas from Maine to Virginia, USA are available through a gallery in Data Basin. These layers are the first of their kind to map tidal marsh vegetation communities at this regional extent.

Saltmarsh Habitat and Avian Research Program website

Seminar by Chris Elphick (SHARP PI) and Chris Field on Saltmarsh Sparrows

Short video on marsh mapping with an unmanned aerial vehicle.

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