Assessment of salt marsh change on assateague island national seashore between 1962 and 2016

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Salt marshes provide extensive ecosystem services, including high biodiversity, denitrification, and wave attenuation. In the mid-Atlantic, sea level rise is predicted to affect salt marsh ecosystems severely. This study mapped the entirety of Assateague Island with Very High Resolution satellite imagery and object-based methods to determine an accurate salt marsh baseline for change analysis. Topobathymetric light detection and ranging was used to map the salt marsh and model expected tidal effects. The satellite imagery, collected in 2016 and classified at two hierarchical thematic schemes, were compared to determine appropriate thematic richness. Change analysis between this 2016 map and both a manually delineated 1962 salt marsh extent and image classification of the island from 1994 determined rates off change. The study found that from 1962 to 1994, salt marsh expanded by 4.01 ha/year, and from 1994 to 2016 salt marsh was lost at a rate of-3.4 ha/ year. The study found that salt marsh composition, (percent vegetated salt marsh) was significantly influenced by elevation, the length of mosquito ditches, and starting salt marsh composition. The study illustrates the importance of remote sensing monitoring for understanding site-specific changes to salt marsh environments and the barrier island system.

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Photogrammetric Engineering and Remote Sensing