Tidal wetlands are highly sensitive to processes that affect their elevation relative to sea level. The surface elevation table–marker horizon (SET–MH) method has been used to successfully measure these processes, including sediment accretion, changes in relative elevation, and shallow soil processes (subsidence and expansion due to root production). The SET–MH method is capable of measuring changes at very high resolution (±millimeters) and has been used worldwide both in natural wetlands and under experimental conditions. Marker horizons are typically deployed using feldspar over 50- by 50-cm plots, with replicate plots at each sampling location. Plots are sampled using a liquid N2 cryocorer that freezes a small sample, allowing the handling and measurement of soft and easily compressed soils with minimal compaction. The SET instrument is a portable device that is attached to a permanent benchmark to make high-precision measurements of wetland surface elevation. The SET instrument has evolved substantially in recent decades, and the current rod SET (RSET) is widely used. For the RSET, a 15-mm-diameter stainless steel rod is pounded into the ground until substantial resistance is achieved to establish a benchmark. The SET instrument is attached to the benchmark and leveled such that it reoccupies the same reference plane in space, and pins lowered from the instrument repeatedly measure the same point on the soil surface. Changes in the height of the lowered pins reflect changes in the soil surface. Permanent or temporary platforms provide access to SET and MH locations without disturbing the wetland surface.
Additional publication details
The surface elevation table: marker horizon method for measuring wetland accretion and elevation dynamics