Patterns and processes in this complex landscape vary spatially within and between sites, and temporally on multiple scales (tidal, diurnal, seasonal, and inter-annual). Overlain on this spatial and temporal variation are long-term trends caused by climate change, sea level rise, and human alterations of the landscape. These long-term trends are likely to manifest in many ways, including changes in water quality, river discharge, runoff and tidal inundation patterns throughout the estuarine landscape.
Over the coming decades, the Georgia coast (like all coastal areas) is expected to experience substantial changes due to factors such as climate change, sea level rise, and human alterations of the landscape. In addition, the landscape likely bears legacies of several thousand years of human occupation, although these have been poorly documented. These effects are likely to be manifest in many ways, including major changes in runoff and inundation patterns throughout the estuarine landscape.
The overarching goal of the GCE LTER is to understand the mechanisms by which variation in the quality, source and amount of both fresh and salt water create temporal and spatial variability in estuarine habitats and processes, in order to predict directional changes that will occur in response to long-term shifts in estuarine salinity patterns.