The pathways that Chesapeake Bay ecosystems will follow in light of climate-change and longer-term natural “stressors” are difficult to predict. Increasing evidence suggests that many terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems do not respond to acute or chronic disturbances in a simple manner, instead, controlling variables may have threshold values that when exceeded result in rather dramatic and potentially catastrophic shifts. Efforts by Chesapeake Bay Virginia Reserve with the assistance of other partner NOAA programs will help answer these questions by providing the spatial framework and training required to establish Reserve components as “sentinel sites” or ecosystem based monitoring sites to assess and predict ecosystem change. Although the procedures and guidance for establishing a Reserve as a sentinel site have not formally been established, CBNERR stewardship staff have started to build out Reserve components with some of the proposed core elements of a sentinel site to examine issues of shoreline erosion and habitat loss at our Goodwin Islands component (located at the York River mouth) and marsh subsidence and salinity intrusion at our Sweet Hall marsh component (a site transitioning from tidal freshwater to oligohaline). Some of these proposed elements include long-term vegetation transects, ground-water wells, surface elevation tables (SETs), and a vertical control network. Reserve staff will use these long-term ecosystem-based monitoring sites to examine questions related to large-scale episodic events (e.g., storms), inter-annual variations in hydrologic budgets (e.g., droughts), and climate-driven changes (e.g., sea level rise, salinity intrusion, temperature) on specific Reserve habitats.
Projects for CBNERR Stewardship Include:
- Habitat Mapping and Change Initiative
- Restoration/Reference Site Project
- Ecosystem Based Monitoring and Development of Sentinel Sites