Notes from the field: Living Shoreline
Since Kari St.Laurent, the DNERR Research Coordinator, is new and loves blogging, she has decided to write snippets that highlight some of the field work occurring at the Delaware National Estuarine Research Reserve. These posts are not about specific data or results, but about the scientific process of making why and how we take measurements.
Last week, on a sunny day at low tide, researchers from the Delaware National Estuarine Research Reserve measured and inspected a living shoreline that was installed last May at the Blackbird Creek kayak ramp. This was an exciting opportunity to expose a few of our summer interns to some field work and teach them about monitoring living shorelines.
Living shorelines are an example of eco-engineering, or using the combination of nature and science to help protect our environment. It is an approach used to stabilize shorelines while also adding habitat for birds, fish, reptiles, and many others. Over time, energy from waves, storms, and tides can carve away coastlines, which could reduce the beautiful wetland habitats at Blackbird Creek. A living shoreline uses native plants to help protect shorelines from that erosion. Imagine digging in your home garden. When you hit a mat of plant roots, it’s hard to dig any further. Plant roots help keep soil in its place!
Likewise, since a living shoreline is somewhat of a “wetland garden”, it provides even more habitat. When we were measuring this living shoreline, we saw many shrimp and small fish swimming by as well as a butterfly happily pollinating!
This survey marked the 1 year milestone since installation, so we had some measurements to make! These included visually inspecting: Are there any invasive plants? Luckily the answer was no!
It also included measurements to estimate of plant cover. A quadrant, a 1 meter square made of PVC pipe, is placed at a designated spot and how much space the plants take up was measured. Quadrants are place at the same exact location every time so we can keep track of which plants are growing and how much space they are filling in.
Living shoreline can take a few years to fully establish, so our goal today was to take the 1 year measurements, as always, without any bias. Today was not about making any conclusions or decisions, just about the pure science of monitoring!
We plan on going back out to make these measurements in August, we wetland biomass is at its peak. So stayed tuned for more notes from the field!
Pictures from Molly Williams, a summer EPSCoR fellow from Delaware Technical Community College.