Exploring Rising Tides in South Carolina

Climate Change

Exploring Rising Tides in South Carolina

What happens when wetlands get too wet? Uncover the impact of rising sea levels in South Carolina.

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The facts

Why the research is important

Why the research is important

Global sea level is expected to rise up to four feet by the end of the century.

Help understand “ghost forests”—areas where the increased salinity of the water has killed off every living plant.

The rising ocean is a big deal. As the U.S. government’s recent National Climate Assessment reports, “nearly five million Americans and hundreds of billions of dollars of property are located in areas that are less than four feet above the local high-tide level.”

salinity leaf

Salinity and leaf litter impact water in the swamp.

For forest wetlands like those around Winyah Bay, South Carolina, the toll could be huge. Researchers have already observed “ghost forests” forming—areas where the increased salinity of the water has killed off every living plant. If these forests die, they can’t sequester carbon, or provide homes to plants and animals, or slow down the storm surges that increasingly threaten our coasts.

But the forests you’ll study are, for the most part, still in good health, which makes them important to understand. You’ll help scientists estimate how much carbon these forests currently hold, measure the quality of the soil and the water, count fireflies if the season is right, and record data using a mobile app.

Your work will lay the foundation for long-term monitoring of the forest, which means scientists can start to disentangle how various changes in the environment are reshaping it—and what those changes mean for its future.

About the research area

Winyah Bay, South Carolina, United States, North America & Arctic

Daily life in the field


This is a summary:



The Scientists


Assistant Professor, Clemson University

ABOUT Alex Chow

Dr. Chow began his career researching drinking water in California’s Sacramento Delta. In the swamps of South Carolina, he explores how sea level rise and forest fires affect the wetland’s water.



Accommodations and Food

Accommodations and Food


Comments & Questions

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