The surface elevation table and marker horizon technique: A protocol for monitoring wetland elevation dynamics

Natural Resource Report NPS/NCBN/NRR—2015/1078
National Park Service; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
By: , and 



The National Park Service, in response to the growing evidence and awareness of the effects of climate change on federal lands, determined that monitoring wetland elevation change is a top priority in North Atlantic Coastal parks (Stevens et al, 2010). As a result, the NPS Northeast Coastal and Barrier Network (NCBN) in collaboration with colleagues from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have developed a protocol for monitoring wetland elevation change and other processes important for determining the viability of wetland communities. Although focused on North Atlantic Coastal parks, this document is applicable to all coastal and inland wetland regions. Wetlands exist within a narrow range of elevation which is influenced by local hydrologic conditions. For coastal wetlands in particular, local hydrologic conditions may be changing as sea levels continue to rise. As sea level rises, coastal wetland systems may respond by building elevation to maintain favorable hydrologic conditions for their survival. This protocol provides the reader with instructions and guidelines on designing a monitoring plan or study to: A) Quantify elevation change in wetlands with the Surface Elevation Table (SET). B) Understand the processes that influence elevation change, including vertical accretion (SET and Marker Horizon methods). C) Survey the wetland surface and SET mark to a common reference datum to allow for comparing sample stations to each other and to local tidal datums. D) Survey the SET mark to monitor its relative stability. This document is divided into two parts; the main body that presents an overview of all aspects of monitoring wetland elevation dynamics, and a collection of Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) that describes in detail how to perform or execute each step of the methodology. Detailed instruction on the installation, data collection, data management and analysis are provided in this report and associated SOP’s. A better understanding of these processes will help to determine the present and future viability of coastal wetlands managed by NPS and can help address measures that will ensure these communities exist into the future.

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype Federal Government Series
Title The surface elevation table and marker horizon technique: A protocol for monitoring wetland elevation dynamics
Series title Natural Resource Report
Series number NPS/NCBN/NRR—2015/1078
Year Published 2015
Language English
Publisher National Park Service
Contributing office(s) Patuxent Wildlife Research Center
Description xviii., 62 p., SOP 1-1-10-3
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