Sea-level rise is causing saltwater to move from coastal marshes and tidal creeks inland over forests and croplands.
Delaware is home to extensive networks of tidal marshes, which provide an array of critical ecosystem services including carbon sequestration. These marshes accumulate carbon due to their relatively high plant productivity and relatively low rates of litter decomposition.
An expanse of tidal wetlands fringes the Delaware Estuary and provides Delaware, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey with abundant ecosystem services including habitat for indigenous and migrating plants and wildlife, biogeochemical cycling of nutrients, preserving water quality, flood hazard mitigation
A parameterization of tidal marsh inundation was developed for the 1,200 hectares of tidal marsh along the 12-km reach of the tidal Murderkill River between Frederica and Bowers Beach in Kent County, Delaware. A parsimonious modeling approach was used that bridges the gap between the simple and often used “bathtub model” (instantaneous inundation based on tides in Delaware Bay), and the more complex modeling of shallow overland that results in the wetting and drying of tidal marshes.
Marshes reduce storm flooding, filter contaminants out of water and provide habitat for birds, fish and other wildlife. However, these environmentally critical areas have decreased in extent along the coast in recent decades, and UD researchers are working to better understand the factors that affect marsh stability—especially in the face of sea level rise.