The Chesapeake Bay’s marshes have been called the lungs of the bay. They provide habitat for fish and waterfowl. The marshes clean polluted bay waters and slow the power of floods and storms.
That’s why the scientists at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center are studying how to preserve marshes in face of rising sea levels prompted by climate change.
At the end of a narrow winding road in southern Anne Arundel County where a vast marsh stretches on seemingly forever scientists are working on solutions. There are stands of reed grasses known as phragmites at some spots, but mostly it’s covered by bulrush and salt meadow grass.
But this is no ordinary marsh.
Instead, it’s dotted with plexiglass squares and cylinders with infrared lamps to maintain different temperatures inside each square. Pipes snake through the water, pumping carbon dioxide at different rates into each of the squares. It’s part of a carefully controlled experiment to figure out how best to preserve Chesapeake marshes.
Roy Rich, one of the scientists conducting the studies, says they are “basically constantly measuring the amount of CO2 going into those plots.”
They’re adjusting levels of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, “up and down to basically create an environment within those chambers that’s at about 750 parts per million of extra CO2,” Rich said.