>>Courtney Kirkham: Marshes are one of the
most productive ecosystems in the world. Marshland protects the coast from flooding, erosion,
and severe weather events. It filters polluted waters and provides habitats for a wide variety
of species. Some of these species, such as shrimp, crab, and oyster, are crucial to coastal
economies, and are directly affected by marsh health. Without them, local fisheries and
restaurants would suffer.>>Saranee Dutta: By protecting the coastline,
marshes help preserve the beaches and rivers that are important for much of Alabama’s tourism
and where many residents go for fun and relaxation. However, from 1955 to 2002, more than half
of emergent wetlands in Coastal Alabama were lost because of human and environmental impacts.
The Mobile Bay Ecological Forecasting team has partnered with the Alabama Coastal Foundation
and the Dauphin Island Sea Lab to address community concerns regarding the health of
Alabama’s coastal marshes.>>Mark Berte: My name is Mark Berte. I am
the Executive Director of the Alabama Coastal Foundation and we have the mission to improve
and protect Alabama’s coastal environment through cooperation, education, and participation.>>Mark Berte: Marsh loss has a really big
impact on the area. Not only because of our economy, because 40% of seafood for
the entire country comes from the Gulf Of Mexico, but also in terms of eco tourism,
the less, you know, marshland that we have and wetlands that we have, the less delta
we can show for people who really wanna see, literally a state that has,
there’s the most aquatic diversity in the country. So we want to make sure
to protect that for future generations.>>Jeanett Bosarge: In order to analyze marsh
health, our team used Terra MODIS 16-day Normalized Difference Vegetation Index data products.
NDVI is an indicator of plant photosynthetic activity and allowed our team to assess changes
in marsh activity from 2000-2016. Our team also used NOAA’s Coastal Change Analysis Program
data from 2001, 2006, and 2010 to mask out any land cover types that were not wetlands.
These masks were used to extract estuarine and palustrine wetlands within our study area.
A timeseries video of all wetland types was created to visualize changes in marsh extent
and health over the last 16 years.>>Tyler Lynn: To further assess marsh health,
marshes were separated into different zones based on the watershed they were in. The mean
NDVI for each watershed was calculated separately for both estuarine and palustrine wetlands.
By separating the wetlands, our team was able to identify various changes in marsh health
over time as well as the impact of environmental and anthropogenic activity on marshes. Our
results were compared to weather data over the study period to determine the role of
climate conditions on marsh health.>>Tyler Lynn: The success of marsh restoration
and conservation initiatives depend strongly on the community, so we asked coastal residents
what marshland means to them.>>Lori Bosarge: The first thing I think of
is what kind of restoration needs to be done.>>Larry Seaman: I think of home.>>Tyler Lynn: Natural resources.>>Lamar Seaman: Seafood!>>Saranee Dutta: Wildlife.>>Mark Berte: Very Important.>>Roland McRae: It’s the beginning of our
ecosystem.>>Courtney Kirkham: Coastal Alabama is our
home, our livelihood, and our future.>>Jeanett Bosarge: The second term of this
project will add Landsat data to create an updated Land Use Land Cover map, and to further
explore the spatial distribution of marshland within the study area. The newly created Land
Use Land Cover map will be used in combination with previous Land Cover maps to make future
projections using the TerrSet Land Change Modeler.