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UMCES researchers launch freshwater marsh study

Frostburg, Md. A team of researchers from the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science Appalachian Laboratory is launching a three-year research study to forecast the effects of environmental change on the formation of freshwater marsh ecosystems. The research, supported by a $620,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, will focus on the Potomac River's Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve near Alexandria, Virginia.

"Freshwater marshes are integral to the health of watersheds, but their existence is threatened by rapid environmental change," said research team leader Dr. Katia Engelhardt. "The study will provide insight into how marshes are formed and why so many species can live together in one small area. Results will help scientists determine the best ways to prevent the unintended destruction of marshes in the future and to restore already degraded marshes."

The project integrates remote sensing of marsh surfaces with field observations to shed light on the feedbacks between marsh topography, sediment deposition and erosion, and vegetation. Scientists will use this information to determine the dominant environmental drivers that affect the physical and biological properties of the marsh. The team will also apply this new science to determine the role vegetation has played in past sediment deposition and erosion events and how future water level changes will affect biodiversity and marsh surfaces.

This new information will help scientists to forecast marsh response to changes in biodiversity and the establishment of new species, while also providing insight into how biodiversity may change as sea level rises or groundwater subsides.

In addition to Dr. Engelhardt, Appalachian Laboratory researchers Dr. Andrew Elmore and Dr. Robert Gardner will collaborate on the project with Dr. Cynthia Palinkas from the UMCES Horn Point Laboratory.


Contact: Christopher Conner
University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science

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