The Delaware National Estuarine Research Reserve, a partnership between Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, recently collaborated with 15 National Estuarine Research Reserves in 13 coastal states on a research study that examined the capabilities of tidal marshes to keep pace with sea level rise.

Results of the pioneering study “Rising to the Challenge: Will Tidal Marshes Survive Rising Seas?” were recently published in Biological Conservation, an internationally-recognized journal of conservation and natural resource management. The study included a tidal marsh resiliency assessment of DNERR’s St. Jones Reserve in Dover.

The study evaluated five categories that determine resiliency of a tidal marsh — marsh elevation, changes to marsh elevation, sediment supply, tidal range and the local rate of sea level rise. Each category received a resiliency score from one to five, with one being the least resilience and five being the most resilience. The average score for all categories produced the overall resilience score for each tidal marsh in the study.

The finding that the St. Jones Reserve and all participating marshes in the mid-Atlantic region were vulnerable to rising sea levels as observed over the last few decades supports previous studies, which determined that the region has some of the highest rates of sea level rise in the nation.

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