Honors College Theses

Date

2021

Major

Geology (B.S.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (restricted to Georgia Southern)

Faculty Mentor

Jacque Kelly

Abstract

Marsh dieback is a periodic and sudden event where large regions of salt marsh grass thin in coverage or die completely. The causes of dieback are currently uncertain although it has been linked to hyper-salinity, sea-level rise, anthropogenic factors, drought, and groundwater hypoxia. The state of Georgia has approximately 619 km2 of coastal marshlands in and around its fourteen barrier islands. Marsh dieback affects the health of these salt marshes, which are one of the most productive ecosystems in the world and provide many benefits to the surrounding environment and community. One of the questions this research aims to answer, is if there is a difference between groundwater in areas of marsh dieback and areas of healthy marsh. This study is measuring short-lived radium, radon, water temperature, dissolved oxygen, specific conductivity, salinity, and calculating groundwater flushing time in an attempt to discover if a link between any of these groundwater parameters and marsh vegetation health exists. Since groundwater is the primary supplier of nutrients to marsh vegetation, the behavior of the groundwater should have a large effect on plant health. This study will contribute to longitudinal research at the study site, further knowledge in the field, and can be used in future marsh preservation efforts.

Thesis Summary

Marsh dieback is a periodic and sudden event where large regions of salt marsh grass thin in coverage or die completely. The causes of dieback are currently uncertain although it has been linked to hyper-salinity, sea-level rise, anthropogenic factors, drought, and groundwater hypoxia. Marsh dieback affects the health of salt marshes, which are one of the most productive ecosystems in the world and provide many benefits to the surrounding environment and community. One of the questions this research aims to answer, is if there is a difference between groundwater in areas of marsh dieback and areas of healthy marsh. This study is measuring short-lived radium, radon, water temperature, dissolved oxygen, specific conductivity, salinity, and calculating groundwater flushing time in an attempt to discover if a link between any of these groundwater parameters and marsh vegetation health exists. This study will contribute to longitudinal research at the study site, further knowledge in the field, and can be used in future marsh preservation efforts.

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