Climate change and sea level rise are going to have a major impact on our shoreline and coastal ecology. As water levels rise and the intensity of weather systems increases, the beaches, marshes, and coastal properties will be subjected to ever-increasing amounts and frequency of flooding. This flooding will also create drastic changes to the ecology of these areas. The marshes are the nesting sites for many birds and are the sites where many birds find food during their stopover while migrating through the region, as well as the nursery for many of the animals that inhabit Long Island Sound and the Atlantic Ocean.
The Marsh Migration Survey Project will utilize community scientists to collect data about coastal marsh vegetation, wildlife, and bird communities at selected areas of the East River marsh in Guilford. The data will be shared with researchers at the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and UConn’s Connecticut Institute for Resilience and Climate Adaptation (CIRCA). The data will help establish correlation between the field observations and the information presented in Sea Level and Marsh Migration (SLAMM) II model and other ongoing projects. The primary consultants for this project are UConn researchers Dr. Beth A. Lawrence, Dr. Chris S. Elphick, and Dr. Juliana Barrett.
This project supports Audubon’s and Audubon Connecticut’s strategic plans for coastal birds along the Atlantic Flyway including marsh nesting birds like the Saltmarsh Sparrow.
Saltmarsh Sparrow Nesting Cycle
The Saltmarsh Sparrow nesting cycle requires ~26 days for a nest to produce fledglings. For nests to be successful, they have to escape inundation by the lunar high tides, which occur biweekly and are the highest every 28 days. The window of opportunity for nesting therefore must fit between two peak high tide events. Under current sea-level rise conditions, the flood-free window for nesting is decreasing. (https://www.bou.org.uk/blog-benvenuti-kovach-nesting-plasticity-saltmarsh-sparrow/)