Understanding Spatial and Temporal Shifts in Blue Carbon, Piermont Marsh, Lower Hudson Estuary, NY
Monday, 14 December 2015
Poster Hall (Moscone South)
Piermont Marsh is a National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR) protected brackish wetland in the lower Hudson Valley. It serves as a nursery for fish, a coastal buffer in storms, a repository of native wetland species unique to the Hudson, and a paleoenvironmental archive. At risk for disappearance due to rising sea level, we assess the present carbon stores and their spatial and temporal variability through time. Determining the depth of peat in transects throughout Piermont Marsh (41°N, 73°55’W), is one step in reconstructing the stores of carbon in the marsh and how they have shifted over millennia. Through the last decade, we have focused field efforts on probing the depths of the marsh through a series of transects and in acquiring sediment cores from which we establish sedimentation rates and carbon storage through time. AMS C-14 dating, XRF fluorescence, pollen analysis, and Cesium-137 provide chronological control for the sedimentation rates, pollution history, and an understanding of the regional and local shifts in vegetation. C-13 and pollen measurements in selected cores indicate major shifts in local vegetation with coastal eutrophication as the marsh has been invaded, first by Typha angustifolia in the nineteenth century and then by Phragmites australis in the twentieth century up to the present. N-15 measurements indicate a large shift in nitrogen as humans have impacted the marsh. We present a comprehensive, three-dimensional view of the effects of climate, vegetation, and human impact on the carbon storage of Piermont Marsh. This project provided a site for a place- and project-based learning through Lamont-Doherty's Secondary School Field Research Program. Many of the field samples were collected by young investigators from schools in New York City and towns near Piermont.