Science Serving Maryland's Coasts

Jaimie Little, Mars Hill College

Class Year: 
2011

Project Title: 

Reconstructing Local Relative Sea Levels Using Current Sea Level and Faunal Zonation in the Peri-Tidal Region of Chesapeake Bay

Abstract: 

Due to the rising sea levels in the Chesapeake Bay region, the Bay's coastal wetlands are being threatened. Wetlands are important ecosystems; they have strong moisture gradients, a distinctive zonation between flora and fauna, and hold an excellent archive of their own history. This archive of history can be retold using the micro-organisms, such as foraminifera, that are preserved in the sediment of the marshes. By using a statistical analyses, or transfer function, as a tool to quantify foraminifera species distribution and relate species assemblages to elevation, recent sea levels for a particular marsh can be reconstructed; the recent sea level trajectory of a marsh can aid in restoration priorities. Based on the information we gathered from our three study sites up and down the Bay, the data, r2, and root mean squared error values show promise for future study with more data when relating species abundances to elevation. Due to the strong influence of salinity in an estuarine environment, we also tested the transfer function along a salinity gradient. Our salinity data is inconclusive and data from sample sites from outside our salinity range is needed to determine the possibility of utilizing the transfer function along a salinity gradient.