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Saltwater Intrusion, Sea Level Rise, and the Spread of Ghost Forests

Join us for a virtual Cary Science Conversation with Cary President Dr. Joshua Ginsberg and our featured guest, Dr. Emily Bernhardt, an ecosystem ecologist and biogeochemist at Duke University. After screening the short film The Seeds of Ghost Forests produced by Science Friday’s Luke Groskin, Bernhardt will discuss her research on how saltwater intrusion and sea level rise are reshaping forests along the mid-Atlantic coast.

Since 2004, Bernhardt and colleagues have been monitoring the transformation of North Carolina’s Albemarle-Pamlico Peninsula. In this region, home to large-scale agriculture, saltwater intrusion from sea level rise has been exacerbated by irrigation infrastructure. Rising salinity is transforming forested wetlands into salt marsh, reducing carbon storage and crop productivity, and degrading freshwater resources.

Bernhardt will share how her team is using satellite imagery and remote sensing to track the rapid spread of ‘ghost forests’ - trees that have been killed off by rising salinity. Among the topics to be discussed: the ecological consequences of saltwater stress, impacts to vulnerable human populations, and strategies to mitigate saltwater intrusion along the Eastern Seaboard and beyond.



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