A water quality monitoring station sits just above the water


The purpose of the ACE Basin Reserve monitoring program is to document both short-term variability and long-term changes in weather, water quality, plant and animal diversity and sea level rise in the Reserve's waterways – with the goal of informing coastal managers about the dynamics of estuarine ecosystems. Each of our 29 fellow Reserve sites around the country has similar standardized efforts, which we call the System-Wide Monitoring Program (or SWMP, pronounced "swamp").

SWMP started back in 1995, and new types of data have been collected over time. Some of the water quality and weather data is available within an hour of collection, which you can access through the Reserve system's Centralized Data Management Office.

A map showing the location of 6 water quality monitoring sites along the Edisto River and nearby tidal creeks.


A weather station at the McKenzie Field Station in Bennetts Point monitors conditions every 15 minutes, which are uploaded hourly to an online database. The weather station measures:

  • air temperature
  • precipitation
  • relative humidity
  • barometric pressure
  • wind speed and direction
  • photosynthetically active radiation (PAR)

Water Quality

At six sites ranging from brackish water all the way down to marine water, we are able to monitor water quality every 15 minutes. This data is also available online. At these sites, we measure:
  • water temperature
  • specific conductivity
  • salinity
  • pH
  • dissolved oxygen
  • turbidity
  • depth (tidal cycle)
We also measure nutrient levels in the water, including chlorophyll a, ammonia, nitrate, nitrite, dissolved inorganic nitrogen and orthophosphate. Four of the sites measure nutrient levels once a month, while the levels are monitored every two hours over a complete tidal cycle at the St. Pierre Creek site.

Sea Level Rise

To assess sea level rise and marsh health in the ACE Basin Reserve, we monitor:
  • highly accurate tide level data
  • marsh vegetation for the types of plants, health and amount of wetland vegetation
  • Surface Elevation Tables (SETs) to measure if the marsh platform is getting higher or lower