June 28, 2021
Thank you for contributing to our timelapse in partnership with the Virginia Coast Reserve Long Term Ecological Research site, University of Virginia Coastal Research Center, and The Nature Conservancy! Salt marshes are critical for shoreline protection and they are home to many species of birds, fishes, crabs, and snails. This landscape view of the salt marsh shows a unique plant community with smooth cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora), salt marsh hay (Spartina patens), and salt grass (Distichlis spicata) on the left and the invasive common reed (Phragmites australis) on the right. Each of these plants have specific needs, from the amount of salt water they can live with, to the type of soil they grow in. As climate change leads to rising sea levels, we expect many changes in water quality, elevation, soil type, and other environmental measurements. Each of these can cause a shift in the plant community which can then change salt marsh function and benefit to humans. Thank you for helping us document how this landscape is changing over time!
The Virginia Coast Reserve (VCR) is an extremely dynamic, heterogeneous coastal barrier landscape comprising mainland watersheds, tidal marshes, lagoons, and barrier islands. Our goal for the VCR LTER program is to develop a predictive understanding of the response of coastal barrier systems to long-term environmental changes in climate, sea level and land use, and to relate these to the ecological services the coastal barrier systems provide. We focus on how slow progressive environmental changes interact with short-term disturbances such as storms and species invasions to control the dynamics and biotic structure in the coastal barrier landscape.