Examination of geospatial patterns of salt marsh dieback development and recovery using historical aerial photography, field data, and climatic conditions

Authors: Christine Hladik*, Georgia Southern University, Jacque Kelly, Georgia Southern University
Topics: Remote Sensing, Coastal and Marine, Marine and Coastal Resources
Keywords: remote sensing, tidal marsh, aerial photography, mapping, dieback
Session Type: Poster
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Lincoln 2, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Tidal marshes are one of the most valuable ecosystems on earth, as they provide habitats for various marine life species, protect shorelines, and improve water quality. Since 2001, Georgia salt marshes have experienced episodes of marsh death, termed dieback, in the dominant macrophyte, Spartina alterniflora. Previous studies suggested that climatic factors including temperature and precipitation pattern changes, sea level rise, drought severity, and changes in river discharge contributed to salt marsh dieback onset. Historical high resolution aerial imagery and field-based differential GPS (DGPS) were used to map changes in dieback extent over time. We collected aerial imagery between the years 1999 and 2017 and high resolution DGPS data from 2014 – 2018 for a dieback salt marsh near Saint Simons Island, Georgia. Dieback area was digitized in a GIS and rates of dieback growth and recovery were determined using the AMBUR package in R. Preliminary results showed that the site is currently undergoing a decline in dieback area (recovering), with numerous periods of growth and recovery from initial dieback onset to present. This study highlights the value of applying remote sensing techniques to monitor the changes in dieback, especially when historical field data are unavailable.

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