NERR - Research
Research directly related to the management of the ACE reserve's resources is actively encouraged and is a high priority. Numerous research and monitoring projects (including cumulative environmental impacts, contaminant assessments, population assessments and environmental stress indicators) have been conducted by government agencies, academic institutions and private organizations in or adjacent to the ACE Basin NERR. The Research Sector of the ACE Basin NERR operates an extensive environmental research and monitoring program that provides significant infrastructure and databases for collaborating visiting scientists. Research questions for which the Sector seeks partners focus on:
- freshwater/saltwater dynamics in the major ACE Basin tributaries,
- mechanisms of marsh response and marsh retreat to changes in sea level, inundation regimes, and weather patterns,
- critical habitat identification and delineation.
Systemwide Monitoring Program
The purpose of the monitoring program at the ACE Basin NERR is to document both short-term variability and long-term changes in the water quality, biotic diversity, and land-use/land-cover characteristics of estuaries with the goal of informing coastal zone managers about the dynamics of estuarine ecosystems. This goal, shared by all of the 28 NERR sites around the country, is incorporated into a coordinated research effort and forms the basis of the NERRS System-Wide Monitoring Program (SWMP: pronounced "swamp"). SWMP provides a long-term data set of selected water quality and meteorological parameters collected at NERR sites nationwide. Archived and real-time SWMP data are available to the public. The NERRS SWMP program was initiated in 1995 with the establishment of the two water quality monitoring stations at each of the reserves. The SWMP datasets are managed and served by the NERRS Centralized Data Management Office (CDMO) for a variety of audiences from academic researchers to coastal managers and the general public. Detailed description and data collected at all of the Reserves are available for viewing and downloading.
The first two ACE Basin SWMP stations began operation in 1995. Since then additional stations have come online so that today six water quality monitoring stations are operated. This long-term monitoring of abiotic environmental conditions includes weather, water quality parameters, and nutrient concentrations. Datasets from all of the reserves are archived, managed, and made available online by the NERRS Centralized Data Management Office (CDMO) for a variety of audiences including academic researchers, coastal managers, teachers and their students, and the general public. Weather, water quality, and nutrient data collected at the reserves are available for public viewing and downloading.
Weather is monitored using a Campbell Scientific® weather station located in the heart of the Reserve at the Bennett’s Point Michael D. McKenzie Field Station. Weather parameters measured include air temperature, precipitation, relative humidity, barometric pressure, wind direction, wind speed, and photosynthetically active radiation (PAR). Real time data from the weather station can be viewed.
Water quality is monitored at six sites distributed along a salinity gradient. A major focus for the ACE Basin Research Sector is monitoring the freshwater/saltwater dynamics of the South Edisto River. From highest salinity to lowest salinity, the sites are: Big Bay Creek, St. Pierre Creek, Mosquito Creek, South Edisto-Jehossee Island, Fishing Creek, and South Edisto-Grove Plantation. Water quality parameters are measured using YSI® data loggers that record measurements continuously every 15 minutes. The parameters measured include water temperature, specific conductivity, salinity, pH, dissolved oxygen, turbidity, and depth (tidal cycle). Real time water quality data from the St. Pierre and Fishing Creek stations can be viewed. Nutrient concentrations (chlorophyll a, ammonia, nitrate + nitrite, dissolved inorganic nitrogen, and orthophosphate) are measured from monthly water grabs at the six water quality sites. In addition to the monthly monitoring, nutrient changes over tidal cycles are measure once a month at the St. Pierre Creek site using an ISCO® water sampler. The ISCO® collects a water sample every 2 hours and 4 minutes over a complete tidal cycle or lunar day (24 hours and 48 minutes).