Working in partnership since 1996, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Nisqually Indian Tribe have restored 902 acres of tidally influenced coastal marsh in the Nisqually River Delta (NRD), making it the largest estuary-restoration project in the Pacific Northwest to date. Marsh restoration increases the capacity of the estuary to support a diversity of wildlife species. Restoration also increases carbon (C) production of marsh plant communities that support food webs for wildlife and can help mitigate climate change through long-term C storage in marsh soils.
In 2015, an interdisciplinary team of U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) researchers began to study the benefits of carbon for wetland wildlife and storage in the NRD. Our primary goals are (1) to identify the relative importance of the different carbon sources that support juvenile chinook (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) food webs and contribute to current and historic peat formation, (2) to determine the net ecosystem carbon balance (NECB) in a reference marsh and a restoration marsh site, and (3) to model the sustainability of the reference and restoration marshes under projected sea-level rise conditions along with historical vegetation change. In this fact sheet, we focus on the main C sources and exchanges to determine NECB, including carbon dioxide (CO2) uptake through plant photosynthesis, the loss of CO2 through plant and soil respiration, emissions of methane (CH4), and the lateral movement or leaching loss of C in tidal waters.