Salt Marsh Monitoring

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2 minutes, 58 seconds

A closer look at how SWAN scientists survey plots along the Cook Inlet Coast.

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3 aerial photographs of the same location at Chinitna Bay in 1995, 1980, and 2005 showing increased vegetation along the shore line
Spruce establishment on beach ridges along Chinitna Bay, LACL, over a 50 year period. Air photos from 1955 and 1980 were orthorectified (geometrically corrected) to an IKONOS base image from 2005 to estimate changes in tree cover. Spruce tree cover expanded approximately 7% between 1955 and 2005.

Salt marshes are extremely dynamic ecosystems, located at the interface of land and sea. An analysis of air photos taken over a 50-year period (1955-2005) has shown measurable change in these systems, including channel abandonment and spruce establishment on beach ridges. Salt marsh communities are highly diverse, ranging from tidally-inundated sedge meadows to shrub-dominated bogs. The salt marsh monitoring sites are revisited every ten years, and where possible, aerial photos and climate data from tools like Remote Area Weather Stations (RAWS) and Moderate-resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) are used to interpret change over time.

Monitoring salt marshes in the Lake Clark focuses on the major habitat characteristics that are important to brown bears, seabirds, invertebrates and other park resources. Tectonic uplift, erosion, geomorphic processes, changing topography and hydrology, tidal fluctuations and storm surges all drive ecologic change in this sensitive plant community.

NPS scientists for the Southwest Alaska Inventory and Monitoring Network (SWAN) are conducting monitoring in Lake Clark at Chinitna Bay and Silver Salmon along with other places at Katmai and Kenai Fjords. Learn more about this decadal study and the importance of coastal sedge meadows by watching the "Salt Marsh Shorts."

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2 minutes, 2 seconds

SWAN Ecologist Mike walks us through the small and large-scale benefits that the Lake Clark National Park and Preserve salt marshes provide to us all.

More about the Southwest Alaska Network

An aerial image of green trees and sandy beaches meeting blue ocean.
A Day on the Lake Clark Coastline

Watch the park's coastal orientation film. Learn more about bear viewing.

An aerial view of salt marshes near Chinitna Bay
Coastal Salt Marshes

What makes a salt marsh special? Join NPS scientists from SWAN as they work along the Lake Clark coast.

a partially snow covered mountain above a green sedge meadow
Silver Salmon Creek

Silver Salmon Creek boasts plentiful bear viewing opportunities and a steady coho salmon run.

a sedge meadow and mountains
Chinitna Bay

Bear viewing is one of the main attractions at this gorgeous site on the Cook Inlet coast. Brown bears gather in the coastal salt marshes.

A cloudy day with green grass and yellow flowers in the foreground.
Checklist: Common Salt Marsh Plants

Brush up your knowledge of common sedges, grasses, flowers, and other plants of the Cook Inlet Coast.

Close up of five-petaled, pink flowers
Common Showy Flowers of Cook Inlet

Look closer at common showy flowers to learn how to identify and where to find them.

A close up of two bundles of small whitish flowers
Sedges and Grasses of Cook Inlet

Get a closer look at common salt marsh sedges and grasses and how to identify them.

Last updated: December 16, 2020

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