GCE Study Site

Where Our Site is Located

The Georgia Coastal Ecosystems Long Term Ecological Research (GCE-LTER) site is located on the central Georgia coast of the Southeastern United States. The primary study area encompasses the estuaries, sounds and marsh complexes surrounding Sapelo Island (31.4 N Lat, 81.3 W Lon).

The GCE study area is bounded on the east by the Atlantic Ocean (South Atlantic Bight). The upland-estuarine interface consists of the riverine estuary of the Altamaha River, the lagoonal estuaries bordering the mainland and Sapelo Island, and the tidal marsh complexes fringing small hammocks distributed throughout the coastal area. The salinity regimes of these estuaries vary extensively due to the interactions of river discharge, ground-water delivery and oceanic tides.

The ecology of the GCE site is typical of the Carolinian biogeographic province, which is characterized by vast expanses of tidal salt marshes protected by a buffer of barrier islands. The principal biome type is coastal barrier island/marsh complex, and the main types of communities under study are salt marsh, estuary, intertidal sediment, surficial aquifer, oceanic sound, and oyster reef.

Additional photographs and 360 Virtual Reality panoramas of our site are available on the GCE site information page on the LTER Network WWW site.

Southeastern USA GCE-LTER Study Area Satellite Image

What We Study

In GCE-I we began to describe the patterns of variability in estuarine processes with an emphasis on water inflow as a primary environmental forcing function. During GCE-II, we are continuing our focus on patterns of variability, but we are also working to elucidate the mechanisms that underlie this variation and in particular the extent to which gradients in water inflow drive landscape patterns. In so doing, we recognize the necessity of evaluating the interaction of inflow-driven changes with other factors that influence estuarine processes (i.e. geologic setting, organismal interactions, etc.). The central paradigm of GCE-II is that variability in estuarine ecosystem processes is primarily mediated by the mixture of fresh and salt water flow across the coastal landscape.

More information is available on the Research web page.

Who We Are

A group of 24 investigators participate on the GCE-LTER project, representing the University of Georgia, University of Georgia Marine Institute, Skidaway Institute of Oceanography, University of Houston, Indiana University, University of South Carolina, University of Florida, Ohio State University, and Creighton University.



This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under grants OCE-9982133, OCE-0620959, OCE-1237140 and OCE-1832178. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.