The National Estuarine Research Reserve System has developed a consistent protocol for monitoring vegetation across the nation’s estuaries. Eventually, the goal is to be monitoring vegetation regularly at every Reserve, allowing for robust spatial and temporal analyses of estuarine vegetation trends. To date, 18 Reserves have implemented this vegetation monitoring protocol.
The vegetation community that is assessed varies by reserve. The protocol has been implemented for submerged aquatic vegetation such as eelgrass and algae, as well as for emergent vegetation such as salt marshes and mangroves.
The vegetation monitoring protocol involves permanent sampling plots along fixed transects. Parameters monitored include percent cover of all plant species, as well as stem density and canopy height of the common species. Elevation is also assessed for each plot when feasible. The complete monitoring protocol provides more details.
These data will be valuable for tracking changes in abundance of particular species of interest, or in species composition over time. For instance, the transects can be used to detect landward migration of vegetation communities in the face of projected sea level rise.
To download vegetation monitoring data, please proceed to select your dataset type.