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wetland ecology

Coastal Topics Catalog: Wetland Ecology

research projects
A Survey of the Effectiveness of Existing Marsh Toe Protection Structures in Virginia
This is a project with the goal of evaluating erosion control effectiveness of existing shoreline treatments that incorporate a living shoreline component in their design.

A Technique for the Functional Assessment of Nontidal Wetlands in the Coastal Plain of Virginia
Nontidal wetlands are known to perform a number of functions which benefit society. These functions include flood storage, surface and groundwater quality protection, fish and wildlife habitat, erosion control, primary productivity, and a recreational and educational resource for the public.

Advanced ID of Restoration Sites
Protocols and criteria to define optimal site selection for wetland restoration in a landscape will be developed based on available GIS data to support an integrated model approach. The approach will be applied in the Tidewater region of Virginia. The protocols are being developed to strengthen our ability to select restoration sites based on scientific understanding of wetland function and values in the landscape. The results of the pilot study will identify potential sites within the Tidewater region where conditions are optimal for restoration activities.

Albemarle-Pamlico Project Coordination
This project staffs the coordination of the Virginia and North Carolina estuary programs by placing an individual in the DCR office in Franklin, VA. The project involves intergovernmental coordination and community outreach.

An Assessment of Wildlife Utilization between a Man-made Marsh, an Adjacent Natural Marsh, and a Nearby Natural Marsh in Virginia
The study investigates the functions and values of man-made and natural tidal wetlands. It is among the first to use simultaneous sampling techniques to investigate animal use presence between man made and adjacent natural tidal wetlands.

Constructing Probability Surfaces of Ecological Change in Coastal Aquatic Systems Through Restrospective Analysis of Phragmites australis Invasion and Expansion
The project will develop a unique analytical method, which involves constructing a probability surface, which can be used to identify thresholds for the transition of coastal marshes to dominance by Phragmites. Any set of conditions can then be placed upon the probability surface, allowing the statistical method to be used in a predictive fashion. The method could be applied to a wide variety of aquatic ecosystems for which state changes occur over either a spatial and temporal extent, or both.

Constructing Probability Surfaces of Ecological Change in Coastal Aquatic Systems Through Restrospective Analysis of Phragmites australis Invasion and Expansion
The project will develop a unique analytical method, which involves constructing a probability surface, which can be used to identify thresholds for the transition of coastal marshes to dominance by Phragmites. Any set of conditions can then be placed upon the probability surface, allowing the statistical method to be used in a predictive fashion. The method could be applied to a wide variety of aquatic ecosystems for which state changes occur over either a spatial and temporal extent, or both.

Development and maintenance of oyster reef restoration database
This project tracks the progress of oyster reef restoration activities within Virginia waters. Data is provided by the Virginia Marine Resources Commission and maintained by CCI in GIS format. The project also provides map illustrations to assist with educational outreach programs on the subject of oyster reef restoration.

Development of a Draft Woody Depressional Wetland HGM Model for the Coastal Plain of Virginia
This project takes the preliminary information developed in completion of the Development of a Forested Depressional Wetland HGM Model project and expands it to a Draft Woody Depressional Wetland HGM Model. The project expands the preliminary reference set from 8 sites to approximately 24 sites and coordinates the model development with similar efforts in Maryland and Delaware.

Development of an Inventory and Multi-level Assessment Method for Mid-Atlantic Tidal Wetlands
This project is designed to provide the Virginia Marine Resources Commission, Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the Maryland Department of the Environment with the ability to report the current extent and condition of estuarine wetlands within three major river systems of the Delmarva. CCRM will develop a Level I, Level II and Level III tidal wetland inventory and assessment methodology for the Delmarva using the estuarine segments of the York River, Virginia, Nanticoke River, Maryland and the Indian River, Delaware as our subject watersheds. Level I involves the GIS based analysis of remotely sensed data while the Level II protocol will be derived from data collection techniques established by the VIMS Comprehensive Coastal Inventory Program (CCI) for mapping shoreline condition. Level III will produce a reference domain for mid-Atlantic estuarine wetlands using a combination of published literature, existing data and field data collection. Reference sites selected for this tier will be representative of the disturbance and ecological variability within the target watersheds. It is hoped that the development and implementation of a multi-level approach to tidal wetland inventory and assessment along with the utilization of these data by the aforementioned state environmental programs will serve as a prototype for expanded investigations across these states in the future.

Development of HGM Models for Wetlands Management in Virginia
This project initiated the development of HGM models in Virginia by 1) a planning exercise to identify and prioritize the needs for HGM model development in Virginia; 2) an initial effort to develop a Hardwood Mineral Flat model; 3) initial data collection on potential reference sites for other models; 4) a program to integrate remote sensing into HGM based wetland assessments; and 5) a protocol program to validate regional HGM models.

Development of No Discharge Zones in Virginia Tidal Waters Phase I
The Commonwealth of Virginia has no regulations to restrict the discharge of waste from vessels in state waters. This project reviews the regulatory statues of enforcing no discharge zones.

Development of Nontidal Wetlands Inventory, Functional Assessment, and Monitoring Strategy for Virginia
This project develops and implements a three level assessment protocol for nontidal wetlands in Virginia. This is the first phase of a series of projects which are intended to provide assessments across all of Virginia. In this project a level I – GIS based assessment will be completed on all wetlands mapped by the National Wetlands Inventory in Virginia. Level II assessments involving field assessments of stressors will be initiated in the coastal plain of Virginia. Level III assessments will involve detailed analysis of habitat and water quality functions on selected sites.

Ecological and Socioeconomic Indicators for Integrated Assessment of Aquatic Ecosystems of the Atlantic Slope
Project objectives are to 1) develop and test ecological and socioeconomic indicators of aquatic resource condition, construct models that use environmental, geographic, and stressor data to predict indicator responses, and use models to link upstream watersheds and downstream estuaries. 2) Develop large scale measures for characterizing landscape attributes and land-use patterns to serve as predictors of a range of environmental conditions. 3) Deliver a nested suite of indicators to managers, where the implications of aggregating models at various scales are considered, and for which reliability is known. This is a collaborative project with Pennsylvania State University, Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, East Carolina University, and the Environmental Law Institute. Final report: http://ccrm.vims.edu/projreps/eagles_02-03.pdf

Ecosystem Approaches to Aquatic Health Assessment: Linking Subtidal Habitat Quality, Shoreline Condition and Estuarine Fish Communities
This project tests the use of side-scan sonar technology as a tool to define subtidal nearshore habitat in two representative watersheds of the Chesapeake Bay.

Enhancement of Aquaculture Management in Virginia
This project is intended to develop policy and management recommendations for the Virginia General Assembly and VMRC regarding aquaculture in estuarine and coastal waters.

Field Inventory of Phragmites
The delineation of Phragmites along tidal shorelines is being collected in conjunction with data for the Shoreline Situation Reports. Analysis of status and trends in distribution will be used in managementand policy recommendations.

Habitat Restoration Options for Generating Stations Virginia Dominion Power
Focus for this project was based on three predominant types of aquatic habitat restoration: seagrass, oyster reef and salt marsh. Advancing specific restoration options as part of compliance plans for generating stations requires technically sound “scaling” to link impingement and entrainment losses to restoration project outcomes. Status of restoration scaling for environmental compensation in estuarine environments was reviewed.

Increasing the probability of success in restored forested wetlands
The goal of this project was to investigate whether seedlings from parent populations adapted to waterlogged sites have a higher probability of survival than seedlings from upland sites when grown under waterlogged conditions.

Increasing the probability of success in the construction of marshes in coastal Virginia
Habitat functions of a constructed tidal marsh and two adjacent natural tidal marshes were compared between marshes and with similar data collected in the same marshes seven years earlier.

Influence of Land Use on Macrobenthic Communities in Nearshore Estuarine Habitats
Our objective was to examine the influence of shoreline alteration and watershed land use on nearshore macrobenthic communities using established indices for related estuarine environments.

Initiating Development of a Forested Depressional Wetland HGM Model for Wetland Management in Virginia
This project initiated the preliminary development of a Forested (Woody) Depressional Wetland HGM model in the coastal plain of the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Integration of ecological & socioeconomic indicators for estuaries and watersheds of the Atlantic Slope
The goal of this project was to develop a set of indicators for coastal systems that are ecologically appropriate, economically reasonable, and relevant to society to further inject science into natural resources management decisions. This suite of indicators can contribute to integrated assessments of the health and sustainability of aquatic ecosystems in the region.

Karst Ecosystem Conservation project, WB/GEF grant project in Croatia Karst Ecosystem Conservation
The strategic objective of the NSAP regarding the karst and underground ecosystems conservation is to 'preserve the present values of the biological and landscape diversity of the karst as an area of global value, and secure a balanced management of all natural resources of the area'.

Living Shorelines:Evaluation Criteria and Monitoring Approaches to Erosion Control
This is a project funded by the Keith Campbell Foundation/Virginia Institute of Marine Science with the goal of evaluating erosion control effectiveness of existing shoreline treatments that incorporate a living shoreline component in their design. These are mostly marsh toe protection structures and low profile riprap shallow water sills. Both of these approaches, in theory, preserve wetland habitat while attenuating shoreline erosion. The project involves development of evaluation criteria for use in field survey, identification of existing

Lynnhaven River Shallow Water Fish Survey and Shoreline Inventory
The utilization of fish communities within dredged and undredged tidal creek systems of the Lynnhaven River is being assessed. Measures of fish communities will include abundance, size, diversity and other fish community metrics developed for shallow water environs. The shoreline condition of the Lynnhaven River Watershed will be comprehensively inventoried with a protocol specifically developed for Virginia and Maryland coastlines which includes a method for collecting, classifying, mapping and reporting conditions to assess riparian shorelines. Fish community information will be related to habitat characteristics including shoreline condition. Observed relationships would support the use of riparian management practices that mitigate loss of critical shallow water habitats, and further link habitat and fishery management.

Macroscale Assessment of American Shad Spawning and Nursery Habitat in the Mattaponi and Pamunkey Rivers, Virginia
We hypothesize that underlying relationships exist between macroscale habitat variables,which are measures of longitudinal heterogeneity of a river on a large scale, and the presence or absence of American shad eggs and larvae. We describe these relationships with multivariate statistical analyses and supplement the macroscale assessment with more detailed microscale habitat descriptors for two tributaries of the York River (Mattaponi and Pamunkey rivers).

Managing Invasive Aquatic Plants in a Changing System: Strategic Consideration of Ecosystem Services
A special section paper of Conservation Biology addressing climate change stress on coastal plant communities and various associated invasives.

Monitoring of Thin-Layer Placement of Material Dredged from Bogues Bay Channel in Virginia
This project involves assessment of the impacts of spray dredging with disposal onto intertidal salt marshes in the Chincoteague Bay area. Plant communities and dredged material placement will be monitored over several years to develop management guidance for potential wider use of this disposal method. This project is the first phase of the study and incorporates the preliminary survey work and the initial post dredging followup.

Oldest Operating Wetland Mitigation Bank in the US
This report is a review of the Goose Creek Wetland Bank in Chesapeake, Virginia. The paper focuses on its development and utilization.

Rappahannock County Riparian Buffer Study
Riparian buffers are important zones for maintaining water quality and providing critical habitat. Rappahannock County has a rural landscape that presents the opportunity to record baseline conditions of riparian buffers. This study involved analyzing a small drainage area in the Upper Thornton River watershed to offer guidance on targeting riparian buffer restoration. Methods included using aerial imagery and GIS to delineate land uses and buffer cover in 100 ft. buffers around streams. Results indicate that in the study area 51% of the riparian lands potentially need some restoration and several recommendations for riparian buffer restoration were made in the final report.Final Report: http://ccrm.vims.edu/projreps/final_report_std.pdf

Refinement and validation of a multi-level assessment method for Mid-Atlantic tidal wetlands
This project will build upon work conducted under the “Development of an Inventory and Multi-Level Assessment Method for Virginia, Maryland and Delaware Tidal Wetlands” project currently being conducted by CCRM and collaborative partners from the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, and Maryland Department of Natural Resources. The Level III assessment protocol developed under this ongoing effort will be utilized in this study to sample approximately 20 additional estuarine tidal wetland sites within the York River, Virginia and Indian River, Delaware watersheds. Additional data collected at these sites will be used to help validate the Level I and Level II condition assessment models developed under previous research efforts. We hope that the development, refinement and validation of a multi-level assessment model will result in its implementation by state and local environmental management and regulatory agencies across the Delmarva region.

Shad Spawning Habitat in Mattaponi and Pamunkey
A combination of remote sensing and on-site data collection and analyses was used in this study as an effective way to rapidly assess essential fish habitat when data are limited, allowing the linkage of fish population data with habitat evaluations.

Status and Trends of Phragmites australis Invasion within Constructed Wetlands of Virginia
Research that centers around Phragmites and its management in Virginia.

Tidal Wetlands Management Technical Support
This project has been a continuing grant renewed annually to support the advisory service provided by the Wetlands Program to the Tidal Wetlands Management program. In particular this grant helps fund the travel costs for site visits and meeting attendance by staff scientists, the publication costs for the Wetlands Newsletter,and some of the expenses of maintaining the tidal wetlands permit data base on line on the Center’s web site at http://www.vims.edu/ccrm/wetlands/newpermits.html Funding was provided to support production of the following

Virginia Wetland Permits
A collection of VIMS Shoreline Permit Application Records.

Wetland Restoration Plan at Norfolk Naval Shipyard, Portsmouth, Virginia
This project involves providing expert advice on the design and construction of a wetlands restoration project on the naval shipyard property.

Wetlands Permit Review and Report Generator
This project enhances the permit reporting process to increase the amount of information presented while automating systematic reporting. This is the first system of its kind that combines expert staff review with landscape information retrieved from spatial databases. The report generator is always being modified as new landscape information is available. The reports along with the original application and related photos are posted online in a searchable database: http://www.vims.edu/ccrm/wetlands/newpermits.html

York River Assessment Level I - Final Report
A final report for a project describing the development of a tidal wetland inventory and assessment for the York River Watershed in Virginia.

science publications
A Draft Regional Guidebook for Applying the Hydrogeomorphic Approach to Wet Hardwood Flats on Mineral Soils in the Coastal Plain of Virginia
Compares functions across a suite of reference sites that range from severely altered to unaltered.

Advances in Wetland Status and Trends Monitoring - Cumulative Error Comparisons
This paper examines the limitations of certain wetland mapping techniques with special emphasis on cumulative error problems.

Comment: Ecosystem services and invasive species management in a changing system
A rebuttal to a paper for strategic management that incorporates spatial and temporal variability in ecosystem services.

Compensatory Mitigation Within the Tidal Wetlands of Virginia
This article describes how compensatory mitigation works as a wetlands management tool.

Comprehensive Wetland Program Plan Commonwealth of Virginia 2011_2015

Creating Tidal Marshes in the Chesapeake Bay
Creating Tidal Salt Marshes in Chesapeake Bay

Cummulative Impacts of Shoreline Construction Activity on Tidal Wetlands in Virginia
Article that discusses wetlands impacts along 5,242 miles and 213,686 acress of vegetated tidal wetlands.

Development of Forested Depressional Wetland HGM model for wetlands management in Virginia
The Hydrogeomorphic (HGM) method for modeling and assessing wetlands is an emerging standard for many federal and state agencies. Implementation of this approach in Virginia is currently hampered by a lack of appropriate models. This project initiated the preliminary development of a Forested (Woody) Depressional Wetland HGM model in the coastal plain of the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Evaluating Nearshore Communities as Indicators of Ecosystem Health. Estuarine Indicators Workshop Proceedings, In: Estuarine Indicators
Explains the effects that natural and anthropogenic stressors have on estuarine systems and the underlying causes of these effects, Offers guidelines and recommendations for the development and use of indicators for effective environmental management of estuarine ecosystems, Integrates assessment tools and techniques, scaling and variability, temporal trends for long-term studies, and environmental factors into a holistic approach to the subject.

Field Guide to Virginia Salt and Brackish Marsh Plants
An illustrated publication of salt and brackish wetland plants by zonation within the marsh.

Headwater and Floodplain Wetlands in Virginia
This is the second report to provide a summary of currently available information pertinent to legislative debates about wetlands regulations in Virginia.

Hypoxia in a Coastal Embayment of the Chesapeake Bay: A Model Diagnostic Study of Oxygen Dynamics
A research paper discussing dissolved oxygen levels in Onancock Creek, Virginia.

Improving Siting and Construction Criteria for Oyster Reef Restoration
A publication that investigates oyster reef restoration efforts and ways to increase their success.

Nontidal Wetland Functions And Values
A report that discusses the role of wetlands and their various functions. A Wetlands Technical Report.

Plant Adaptations to Saturated Soils and the Formation of Hypertrophied Lenticels and Adventitious Roots in Woody Species
A wetlands technical report on determining the extent of forested wetlands using analysis of roots and hypertrophied lenticels.

Plowing Through the Muck: A Review of Wetland Assessment/Evaluation Methods
A wetlands technical report reviewing various assessment and evaluation methods.

Primary Producers and Decomposers of Intertidal Flats
A wetlands technical report describing primary producers and decomposers along mean high water and mean low water.

Restoration and Creation of Forested Wetlands: A Guide
A wetlands technical report that describes types of forested wetlands in Virginia as well as their protection and mitigation.

State of the York Watershed 2000
A publication that gives a report on the state of the York River watershed for the year 2000.

Terrapin Files Researchers Survey the Distribution of Threatened Turtles

The Escape Hatch
Biodegradable panels on crab pots.

The State of the Art in Wetlands Modelling: An Emphasis on Techniques and Technologies
A wetlands technical report describing wetlands modelling techniques.

Tidal Marsh Inventories
Publications for localities with maps and tables indicating wetland coverage.

Tidal Wetland Values
A wetlands technical report describing the ecological services of tidal wetlands.

Virginia Wetlands Report
A list of Virginia Wetlands Report titles by topic and by year/volume.

Virginia's Coastal Program: Strategic Mapping of Management Goals
Specific goals of the program were investgated and mapped to see whether needs were being met for the Virginia.

Wanderings: The Okavango Delta
A short article about a trip to the Okavango Delta in Africa.

Wetland Assessment Final Report
This is a final report of the development of a nontidal inventory and monitoring strategy for Virginia with various phases and levels.

Wetland Mitigation
A wetlands technical report describing wetland mitigation and mitigation banking.

Wetland Seed Banks: Research in Natural and Created Wetlands
A wetlands technical report describing the historical perspective of seed banks and their use in research and created wetlands.

Wetlands Flora Reports
A collection of individualized species reports for wetlands flora.

Wetlands Guidelines Revisions
The Center for Coastal Resources Management, VIMS, has undertaken an initiative to provide integrated scientific guidance for better-informed decision-making regarding Virginia’s shoreline systems. We are working on a revised Wetland Guidelines document on a parallel track with our on-going comprehensive guidance initiative. The Wetlands Guidelines will be based upon the current scientific understanding of the ecology of wetlands and role in the landscape. The document will provide an overview of the state of the science and identify environmental preferences and supporting rationale for shoreline management options.

Wetlands Management Handbook
Information on wetlands ordinance, dunes, guidelines, mitigation policies, permits, and marinas for Virginia.

Wetlands of Virginia: total, isolated and headwater
A special CCRM report that focuses on various types of wetlands - especially isolated and headwater wetlands.

Wetlands Technical Reports
A link to various wetland technical reports published by CCRM.

map products
Development of TMDL Models for Shellfish Growing Waters
The development of shellfish TMDLs for the condemned areas on the 1998 303d list of impaired water bodies in Virginia is a joint effort between the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, the Division of Shellfish Sanitation, and the Department of Environmental Quality. This project involves development of the databases and report formats for these models. Project Update: There were two methodologies being used to determine source load allocations: watershed modelling and bacterial source tracking (BST). VIMS considers the watershed modeling to produce much more scientifically defensible results compared to the BST methods that DEQ is employing. After much discussion with DEQ, VIMS withdrew from the contract to develop bacterial TMDLs for shellfish growing waters.

GIS Conversion of VMRC Fisheries Management Areas
This project generates a GIS database of the location of Virginia’s managed fisheries areas within the Bay. Fisheries Management Areas (FMAs) within Virginia include artificial reefs, sanctuaries, oyster reefs, and important finfish spawning grounds, to name a few. They are the cornerstone of the Federal government’s Marine Managed Areas Inventory for Virginia. FMAs are surveyed, managed, and regulated by the Virginia Marine Resources Commission. In a cooperative project between VIMS and VMRC, these data have been converted to GIS formats for integration into other state and federal aquatic management initiatives. Among them is Blue Infrastructure, which collects and disseminates aquatic resource data in an interactive GIS format accessible through the Internet. Virginia’s FMA boundaries and database have been added to Blue Infrastructure as a project deliverable. Link to project page at:http://ccrm.vims.edu/blueinfrastructure/bi_intro.html

Historic Oyster Reef Mapping for Virginia Primary Tributaries
Historic bathymetric charts dating back to the 1800s and including major tributaries in Virginia are being digitized using ArcInfo. Bathymetric soundings from the mid to late 1800s suggest that bathymetric highs within the rivers may represent historic oyster reefs. Using the triangular integrated network (TIN) model to develop three dimensional representations of these relief areas, the structures appears to be elongated, elliptical or dome shaped. Bottom sampling from the early 1970s reveal that many of these are associated with shell bottom providing some verification that they were oyster reefs. Today, these reefs are gone from Virginia’s tributaries. This ongoing project to reconstruct the distribution of reefs in history may assist in understanding the demise of these habitats and ensure the success of future restoration efforts. See final report at: http://ccrm.vims.edu/pubs/ReefRestRpt.pdf

Integration of Protection Strategies to an Interactive GIS Database
This project enhances the existing online interactive GIS database known as OSCAR (Oil Spill Clean-up and Response Tool). Protective strategies are strategies that military or industrial installations file with the USCG for approval. They address protective measures planned in the event that an oil spill results from their operation. Protective strategies generally provide for the placement of booms and other devices to trap or retard the spread of oil to sensitive areas. The Coast Guard reviews and approves these strategies individually. In Virginia, no strategies have been submitted for review. Currently strategies from Baltimore district are being evaluated for inclusion. Where possible, protective strategies that are approved will be converted to a GIS theme for inclusion in OSCAR.

Tidal Marsh Inventory
GIS coverage of all marshes delineated in the Tidal Marsh Inventory Series.

Tidal Wetlands Assessment - York River Assessment
This study provides baseline data on the extent and condition of 2,188 tidal wetlands within the York River Watershed. These data provide valuable information in identifying wetland restoration opportunities, evaluating appropriate mitigation ratios, and determining cumulative impacts within a watershed.

Tidal Wetlands Multi-Level Assessment
This includes reports, datasets and ArcIMS projects for Level I and II protocols within the Indian River, DE; Nanticoke River, MD, and York River, VA.

Wetlands Data Viewer
The Wetlands Data Viewer tool allows users to obtain National Wetland Inventory (NWI) statistics for any hydrologic unit in Virginia.

Wetlands Mitigation Targeting Tool
This tool uses GIS to target sites in the landscape suitable for wetland creation. It has application for wetland restoration or mitigation projects. The tool outputs selected sites based on five suitability parameters: presence of hydric soils, presence of hydrology, adjacency to existing wetlands, existing landuse and the opportunity for landscape conversion, and proximity to designated conservation areas.


Living Shoreline Monitoring
A presentation on the negative effects of hardening the shoreline and the need for alternative erosion protection.

Wetlands Self Taught Education Units
A training series on various topics related to wetlands with units and self tests.

York River Tidal Marsh Survey
York River Tidal Marsh Survey

in the news
Chesapeake BayWatch with Dr. Kirk Havens
Chesapeake Bay Watch is a continuing program designed to engage the public in issues regarding the living resources and natural history of the Bay. Topics range from current issues to plant and animal species to seasonal changes in the Bay and other topics of general interest.