Project title: Transformacion natural y antropica de las marismas en la costa cantabrica: respuesta al cambio climatico (TANYA). 2009-2011. $ 115,600.
Salt marshes represent the most extreme ecosystem under marine influence as they develop at the highest possible topographic position under tidal influence and are located at the contact zone between the marine and terrestrial domains. As a consequence, they are indicative of the maximum sea level at any time and any temporal variation of the sea level will originate a vertical and/or lateral migration of the salt marshes.
This research project is intended to determine the recent environmental evolution of the salt marshes in the eastern Cantabrian coast as a consequence of: a) their formation 3 ka ago when Holocene sea level became stable; b) their human occupation for agricultural purposes during the 18th and 19th centuries; c) their abandonment and natural regeneration during the 20th century; and d) their response to the sea-level oscillations during the last decades as a consequence of the possible ongoing climate change.
Moreover, this work aims to reconstruct sea-level changes in this coastal area (in cooperation with other research activities on the British, French and Portuguese Atlantic coasts) over the past 500 years. The reconstructions will be developed from analyses of microfossils preserved in salt marsh sediments (foraminifera). A new combination of sediment dating techniques will create an accurate temporal framework for the reconstructions. The resulting high-resolution sea-level curves will be an important supplement to existing instrumental datasets and, also, extend these datasets back in time. The project will resolve modern rapid rates of sea-level rise and it will determine when modern rates commenced. The ultimate significance of the project lies in the fact that computer models that are used to predict future sea-level changes can be tested against the historical observations. Therefore, a better understanding of past sea-level changes is a crucial prerequisite for obtaining more accurate predictions of future sea-level rise.