Monitoring vegetation health in the Great Marsh : 25 years of satellite observations and freshwater input data.
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Salt marshes are extremely valuable coastal ecosystems that carry out a wide range of ecosystem services; however, these ecosystems face serious threats from human- caused environmental changes, such as sea level rise and drought. This study aims to assess the relationship between freshwater input and the overall health of a salt marsh over a 25-year time period. The Great Marsh in northern Massachusetts was selected due to its susceptibility to variations in freshwater input into the marsh, and 13 Landsat scenes between 1993 and 2018 were acquired along with discharge data from two of the marsh’s rivers. Using LiDAR data, elevation masks were created for the low, high and fringe marsh zones, and the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) was used to assess marsh vegetation health in each of the zones. No relationship was discovered between the amount of freshwater input into the marsh and the health of each of the marsh zones; however, upstream regions of the marsh tended to be healthier than downstream regions. These results indicate that freshwater input may not play as important a role as other factors in determining salt marsh health.
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