Class Year


Document Type

Student Research Paper

Date of Creation

Spring 2022

Department 1

Environmental Studies


Freshwater tidal marshes are essential stopover points for migratory birds traveling up and down the east coast of North America. Given the importance of these habitats, we examined the effects of sea level rise on vegetation health and vegetation migration at Otter Point Creek Estuarine Reserve. We aimed to test three predictions: 1) vegetation health will decline over time during vegetation growth periods, 2) vegetation migration of less water-tolerant species will occur with movement into higher elevation plots, 3) people will be aware that there are impacts of climate change on species around them and themselves. We used a combination of Google Earth Engine, ArcGIS, field-collected vegetation data analyzed in R, and a survey of visitor perceptions to test these predictions. Our results demonstrate that 1) vegetation health has increased in some areas but decreased in others over time; it is unclear which vegetation has grown over time, 2) there is a slow vegetation migration in low- to mid-marsh transects, 3) people are aware that climate change impacts plants, animals, and people, but fewer recognize that it will impact them personally. Our results also show that, with a 10ft increase in sea level, this system would disappear completely. Overall, this vital wildlife habitat will continue to change with increased extreme weather events that will negatively cause significant shifts within the marsh.


Written for ES 400: Environmental Studies Senior Seminar