Another happy volunteer monitoring our saltmarshes.

It’s a monumental task collecting extensive plant and groundwater data at over 100 plots across 3 marshes, but we seem to pull it off almost every year … thanks to our committed volunteers. Together, they donated over 170 hours of time to collecting marsh data this August and September.  Fortunately this year we were lucky to have wonderful weather and few bugs, but lots of mud! For those who braved the knee deep mud, they were at least rewarded with finding several tiny horseshoe crabs in our plots.


The effort this summer and those like it over the past ten years are helping us build a record of how salt marshes are changing overtime. The Great Bay NERR and the  University of New Hampshire are partnering on a NERRS Science Collaborative grant to look at all of the saltmarsh data that has been collected at National Estuarine Research Reserves across New England. Overall, we’re seeing a plant community shift throughout New England salt marshes that is indicative of more flooding on the marsh. We’re seeing a lot more Spartina alterniflora (aka smooth cordgrass), which is the most flood resilient grass. This appears to be at the expense of its cousin, Spartina patens (aka Salt hay), which is declining in most marshes. This pattern is echoed at our other 3 National Estuarine Research Reserves in New England, particularly in southern states, where their high marsh are shifting more dramatically towards low marsh, and their low marsh is shifting towards mudflats. Below is a time-series of photos of a low marsh plot in Prudence Island, RI that drives this point across. These shocking photos convinced us to start photo-documenting our plots at GBNERR this year.


We can’t thank our volunteers enough for helping us collect data that is not only important here in New Hampshire, but also puts our marshes in a regional context. We can’t wait to get muddy again with you next year.