Mangrove Soil Surface Elevation Tables


Soil dynamics (the build up or loss of sediment) is a basic process that can have far reaching impacts on an ecosystem. This process is especially important in mangroves, mudbanks, and salt ponds where small changes in elevation can have large changes in hydroperiod, tidal inundation, flushing and circulation. These in turn impact coastal vegetation and marine life in associated water bodies. Everglades restoration of regional hydrology, changes in water deliveries, large storm events, and sea level rise could all affect these soil dynamics and have implications for long-term changes in coastal wetlands. In the United States Virgin Islands, sediment filling of ephemeral guts and salt ponds from upland development is another important factor. Larger scale questions involve whether mangrove forest elevations will keep pace with sea level rise and what will be the effects of sea level rise on Florida Bay's berms, embankments, and mud banks.


The South Florida/Caribbean Network adapted a "Soil Elevation" protocol for installing and monitoring soil elevation tables in mangroves in several parks: Biscayne National Park, Salt River Bay National Historical Park and Ecological Preserve, and Virgin Islands National. Soil Elevation Table monitoring involves establishing permanent select sites in mangrove forests and is designed to measure changes in soil surface elevation, accretion and erosion.

Mangrove Soil Elevation Table sites must be typical mangrove forests with significant peat depth accumulation, limited access by the public, low trash buildup, and uniformity of vegetative cover. At each site three deep-rod Soil Elevation Table benchmarks are installed following National Geodetic Survey guidelines to enable measuring changes in elevation. Three feldspar marker horizons plots are established per benchmark and are used to measure vertical accretion and erosion. Data collection involves placing a Soil Elevation Table "arm" of nine fiberglass pins on top of the benchmark pipe. Distance of all nine pins to the soil surface is measured at four Soil Elevation Table "arm" positions per benchmark. Feldspar plots are cored at each sampling date to determine rate of accretion or erosion.

The Soil Elevation Table sites in Biscayne National Park are complimentary to the Soil Elevation Table monitoring project initiated by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) in Everglades National Park, allowing a more wide-scale look at the ecological processes shaping the geomorphology of the coastal mangrove ecosystem of South Florida.

Mangrove Soil Surface Elevation Table publications

FInd all monitoring reports, protocols, and resource briefs below.
Journal Articles

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Monitoring Reports

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Resource Briefs

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3 minutes, 27 seconds

Why do scientists track the soil elevation in mangrove habitat to learn more about climate change impacts? The network's 2018 Future Park Leader of Emerging Change (FPL) intern, Malcolm Wells shares his experience.

Last updated: May 30, 2019