The Coastal Georgia Adopt-A-Wetland
Program is a hands-on education program that promotes wetland
conservation through volunteer monitoring. The University of
Georgia Marine Extension Service coordinates the program from
Skidaway Island, Savannah. The goals are to:
1. Educate the public
on the importance of wetlands
2. Increase public awareness of water quality issues
3. Train citizens to monitor and protect wetlands
4. Collect baseline wetland health data
Wetlands - Critical
relatively small coastline (~100 miles) contains one third of
the total amount of salt marsh on the East Coast and approximately
90 miles of sandy beaches. Salt marshes and coastal wetlands
are critical ecosystems performing many ecological functions.
They help to filter pollutants and to protect our coastal areas
from damaging floods. Also considered essential habitat, they
provide a nutrient rich environment for larval fish and shellfish
including many commercially important species (e.g. mullet,
sea bass, oysters, blue crab and shrimp). Our beaches are home
to several threatened species (e.g. sea oats and nesting loggerhead
turtles). Wetlands also allow for many diverse recreational
activities such as photography, fishing, and kayaking.
The State of
The Coastal Marshland Protection Act and the
Shore Protection Act provide the Georgia Department of Natural
Resources with the legal authority to protect tidal wetlands
and beaches. Clearly, these environments need protection, however,
in recent years wetlands have come under increased pressures.
Acres of salt marsh grass have been lost to the “dead
marsh” phenomenon. Marsh die-off events occurred throughout
the southeast region after a prolonged drought period. It has
been theorized that drought conditions encouraged habitat alterations
including changes in the water chemistry of marsh mud, the spread
of diseases, and changes in the food web. Additional losses
are occurring due to the population explosion in coastal Georgia.
Urbanization inevitably leads to wetland loss and causes adverse
impacts to flood control, water quality, aquatic wildlife habitat,
aesthetics and recreation.
What Can I Do?
The Coastal Georgia Adopt-A-Wetland Program
invites you to form your own monitoring group and “adopt”
a wetland. Our current volunteer groups include school classes
5th grade and up, civic organizations, individuals, families,
neighbors, friends, clubs, and companies. Your group should
contact the Coastal Georgia Adopt-A-Wetland Program to schedule
a free training workshop. During the training session instruction
will be provided on the water quality monitoring and/or biological-sampling
methods used to determine wetland habitat health. The workshops
involve hands-on activities and certificates are awarded upon
completion. All the supplies your monitoring group will need
to collect data for an annual period are provided on a loan
basis. All the data collected by volunteers is compiled by the
Marine Extension Service and added to the Environmental Protection
Division’s water quality database maintained at the Atlanta
Adopt-A-Stream office. Each group is provided with an annual
report summarizing the data collected at their respective sites.
While monitoring we ask that you adhere to our safety recommendations
and immediately report any emergencies such as oil spills, marsh-die
off events, and fish kills to our “Coastal Wetland Emergency
Team”. Volunteers are also encouraged to participate in
the statewide annual cleanup event called “Rivers Alive”.