Salt Marsh Monitoring Program
Salt marshes line the leeward side of barrier islands and are often called an estuary. Estuaries serve as a nursery to most of the nearshore creatures of the ocean, and feed many of the mammals and birds that live on the coast. The estuary also acts as a sponge and filter to keep our waterways clean. Because it serves as the foundation for the marine food chain, the estuary is a vital part of ocean ecosystems. The water in an estuary is brackish meaning it is a combination of fresh and salt water. The tides flood the estuary every six hours, which stirs up bottom nutrients that feed shellfish. As the tide recedes, it carries those nutrients out to offshore areas where it continues to supply organisms with food. At low tide, the estuary becomes an excellent feeding ground for upland animals. The animals and plants that live in the estuary must be very hardy because they have to deal with the tidal currents, changing salinity and large quantities of silt dumped at the mouth of creeks and rivers. Enjoy your stroll through this beautiful habitat and really look and listen to the animals and plants that make their home here.
The BHI Conservancy monitors the salt marshes that border Bald Head Creek. Weekly water quality measurements have been taken since May 2010. The BHI Conservancy maintains three test locations in Bald Head Creek. Additionally, a newly developed plankton monitoring program will help characterize the biodiversity of plankton in Bald Head Creek.
Summer/Fall 2014 Creek Water Quality Update
Creek water quality throughout the summer oscillated within normal parameters, similar to trends observed last summer. There were a few periods of low dissolved oxygen - mostly during very hot days. Through an NC State University partnership with Dr. Chris Osburn, BHIC is currently conducting a new pilot study to determine the source of dissolved carbon in the salt marsh. Dissolved carbon can come from any organic matter decomposing in the marsh, but the greatest concern is animal-based carbon, particularly any waste that may increase harmful bacteria levels. Currently, the upper portion of Bald Head Creek is closed to shellfishing due to increased bacteria levels - this new study seeks to understand the source of that contamination. Water samples will be collected and analyzed through the fall/winter months and preliminary results may be available in late spring. Check back for periodic updates!