Measuring the stability of coastal wetlands: The surface elevation table – marker horizon method

Professor Catherine Ellen Lovelock

School of Biological Sciences,
The University of Queensland, St Lucia, QLD 4072.
Tel :    07 3356 2304
Fax :       07 3365 5755
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The surface elevation table – marker horizon method (SET-MH or Rod SET-MH) is used globally to provide a measure of the stability of coastal wetlands. The SET-MH method uses a benchmark or baseline that is anchored deep in the soil profile (a rod pounded to resistance) from which increases or decreases in the elevation of the soil surface can be measured using a set of pins on a ”table” or measuring arm that is situated on top of the benchmark rod. Changes in elevation over time can be measured to mm accuracy. Coastal wetlands that keep pace with local rates of sea level rise can be distinguished from those that are failing to keep pace. The concurrent use of marker horizons (MH), which allow detection of soil surface accretion (e.g. sediment deposition) allow changes in soil elevation to be attributed to surface or subsurface processes. The method enhances understanding of the processes important for “keeping pace” with sea level rise in coastal wetlands which informs management for sustainable wetlands.

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