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System-Wide Monitoring Program (SWMP)
Introduction
YSI field calibration
The NERRS System-Wide Monitoring Program (SWMP) was initiated in 1995 to provide standardized data on national estuarine environmental trends while allowing the flexibility to address coastal management issues of regional or local concern. The principal mission of the SWMP is to:
 
Develop quantitative measurements of short-term variability and long-term changes in the integrity and diversity of representative estuarine ecosystems andcoastal watersheds for the purposes of contributing to effective coastal zone management.
 
The System-Wide Monitoring Program is designed to enhance the value of the reserves as a system of national reference sites. Data collected by the SWMP are compiled at the NERRS Centralized Data Management Office (CDMO), located at the Belle W. Baruch Institute for Marine Biology and Coastal Research (University of South Carolina). The CDMO serves as a central site for archiving data, storing metadata, and for managing quality assurance/quality control procedures.

Components of SWMP
Phase 1. Estuarine Water Quality, Coastal Weather, and Dissolved Nutrients
Through the SWMP, each reserve currently deploys automated instruments to to create
a continuous record of water conditions. In addition, a meteorological station provides
real-time measurements of local weather conditions. Once a month, water samples are
taken to analyze dissolved nutrients and other parameters.

Phase 2. Biotic Monitoring of Estuarine Habitats and Communities
This phase of the SWMP will assess community composition and species abundance and distribution in estuarine ecosystems. Question driven monitoring priorities and protocols are currently under development.

Phase 3. Land Use and Habitat Change
This component of SWMP is being developed to identify past and future changes in coastal
land use patterns and habitats. The phase will examine the link between land use activities
and coastal habitat quality by tracking and evaluating the status of estuarine habitat change and watershed land use for all the reserves.
 

Implementation of SWMP
SWMP Monitoring Stations
SWMP Monitoring Stations
The Reserve is fully implementing Phase 1 of the SWMP, which includes monitoring estuarine water quality, nutrient concentrations, and local weather. Four permanent monitoring stations are deployed along the estuarine gradient of the South Slough to collect baseline water quality information. These stations activate every 30 minutes to record temperature, depth, salinity, conductivity, dissolved oxygen, pH, turbidity, and chlorophyll.
 
Concentrations of chlorophyll, nutrients, and suspended materials are monitored on a monthly basis. Grab samples are collected at four sites along the estuarine gradient during high and low tides. In addition, an automated sampler at one site collects water every 2.5 hours throughout a 25-hour tidal cycle. Samples are analyzed for Tier 1 estuarine nutrient parameters (ammonium,nitrate, nitrite, phosphate, chlorophyll a, and phaeophytin) and Tier 2 parameters (total dissolved nutrients, particulate nutrients, silica, total suspended solids, and particulate carbon).
 
South Slough NERR operates an automated Campbell CR-10X meteorological station on the campus of the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology to provide continuous digital records of local weather conditions, storm events, and rainfall patterns. The station is located near the mouth of the South Slough estuary and records wind direction, velocity, air temperature, relative humidity, barometric pressure, precipitation, and photosynthetically active radiation.
 
Phase 1. Estuarine Water Quality, Coastal Weather, and Dissolved Nutrients
The Reserve will continue to collect data that on short-term changes and long-term trends among estuarine water quality parameters, dissolved nutrients, and coastal weather.
Advancements in this ambient monitoring program will include acquisition of real time data and the integration of multiple data sets from different instrument arrays.
 
Phase 2. Biotic Monitoring of Estuarine Habitats and Communities
South Slough NERR is serving as a pilot project site to develop and test protocols for system-wide monitoring of salt marshes and submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV). If successful, these protocols will be implemented on a system-wide basis.
 
Phase 3. Land Use and Habitat Change
A pilot project to assess various sensors for acquisition of satellite imagery is currently underway at selected reserves. This project will examine the use of different sensors at sites which vary in estuarine geomorphology and adjacent land uses, and the scale and resolution needed for assessment of uplands and tidal wetlands in a Pacific Northwest coastal watershed.