September 24, 2021
Can you see the different types of plants in front of you? Have you ever wondered why they grow in distinct rows or sections parallel to the water? Zones of plants are determined by elevation and specific plant tolerances. Some plants thrive in salty water, others need drier soils. Higher elevations, like those on the left side of the photo receive less salt water at high tide, allowing for different plants to live in that area. The plants on the right side of the photo enjoy the lower elevations which bring in salt water and more nutrients. As sea-level rises, we expect each of these plant zones to move closer to the forest seeking their favorable conditions. Your photo submission will help us answer how this salt marsh, its plants, and the landscape are changing over time. Thank you for contributing to our time-lapse in partnership with the Virginia Coast Reserve Long-Term Ecological Research Program , the University of Virginia's Coastal Research Center, and The Nature Conservancy's Virginia Coast Reserve Chapter.
How do slow, progressive environmental changes (like sea level rise) interact with brief disturbances like storms to shape our seaside landscape? We are trying to find out. Since the mid 1980s, scientists and students from over half a dozen universities have worked together through the VCR Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) program to better understand coastal forests, salt marshes, oyster reefs, seagrass meadows, and barrier islands. Our goal is to not only UNDERSTAND how coastal systems work but also to PREDICT how they may function or change in the future due to the effects of changes in climate, sea level and land use. We also connect any of those changes to the ecological services the coastal barrier systems provide to you, such as flood protection or fisheries habitat. Beyond VA's coast, we are connected to a national network of LTER sites, studying and comparing environments all over the country and world.