Aimee Good collecting vegetation data with carbon flux tower in the background

Staff at the San Francisco Bay NERR are busy working in the marshes this month at our reserve sites!

Each fall, we survey plants in the same locations in the marshes at China Camp and Rush Ranch to document how marsh plant communities change over time. These surveys help us understand how plant communities differ throughout our two marshes- for example, different plants grow near channels where the marsh is wetter and lower than near the upland. These surveys also can help us understand how plant communities might change from one year to the next or over many years as our climate changes and sea level rises.

How do we survey plant communities? First, we use a GPS instrument to find where our plot is located in the marsh. When we get to the location, we place a large, square quadrat on top of the vegetation so that we look at the same area each year. Next, we identify all the plants we see in the plot, and together estimate what percent area of the plot each plant covers. We then place a smaller quadrat randomly in the plot and count how many stems of each plant are growing in that smaller area. Finally, we measure how high the vegetation in the plot is growing. Sometimes we see animals like snails, crabs, or amphipods in the plots living beneath the plants. This year, we saw several different types of marsh plants flowering. The marsh is always a great place to enjoy seeing and hearing birds. You can try to identify marsh plants, too! How many marsh plants do you see in the plot in the photo?

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