Salt marshes are disappearing from coastlines across the globe. In many regions, disturbances that cause soil waterlogging, such as rising sea levels and certain land management practices, catalyze the conversion of marsh habitat into unvegetated mudflats or open water environments. As part of this transition, the shallow ponds that dot the landscape expand at the expense of productive marsh grasses. This process occurs over decades and likely affects the ecosystem functions that underlie valuable services. Incorporating ponds into landscape-scale biogeochemical assessments may therefore be important for refining our current understanding of marsh ecosystem functioning and predicting changes under future scenarios.
Disappearing Marshes Research Challenge will contribute to an active research project that seeks to refine current models of marsh evolution and the role of salt marshes in local-to- global carbon budgets by including the contribution of ponds. A key hurdle is to obtain a representative sample size of individual pond measurements. Aerial images and LiDAR are used to identify ponds, but their spatial resolution is often too coarse to differentiate between different habitat features (ponds, mudflats, shallow open water, etc.). Nor do these approaches provide pond depth or chemistry data. Consequently, these basic measurements must be manually collected in the field.