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RI Salt Marsh Monitoring and Assessment Program released
More info on the program (PDF) – A Strategy for Developing a Salt Marsh Monitoring and Assessment Program for the State of Rhode Island
May 12, 2016, WAKEFIELD – A plan to help guide Rhode Island monitor and preserve its coastal salt marshes has been released by the Narragansett Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (NBNERR), the R.I. Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC), and Save The Bay, and will serve as a strategic plan for future monitoring efforts.
Rhode Island’s salt marshes provide valuable ecosystem service: they help protect the shoreline during storm events, offer fish and wildlife habitat, improve water quality, and aid in carbon sequestration. The majority of them, however, have been negatively impacted by human activity and show signs of degradation from a number of stressors, made worse by the impacts of climate change. According to the report, “A Strategy for Developing a Salt Marsh Monitoring and Assessment Program for the State of Rhode Island,” extensive monitoring all over the state has provided a detailed look into how our salt marshes respond to these threats, as well as management and restoration efforts. There still exists, the report states, a pressing need for more information.
The assessment program (or SMMAP) document is the result of a collaborative effort to improve upon long-term salt marsh monitoring in Rhode Island, and presents a strategy for developing a comprehensive, statewide monitoring and assessment program. The proposed SMMAP is a three-tiered framework for assessing changes in salt marsh condition, acreage and vegetation over space and time.
Tier 1 includes statewide mapping of salt marsh vegetation communities using and automated process and aerial photos. Tier 2 involves the development of a rapid assessment protocol to be activated each year at a selection of marshes throughout the state. Tier 3 builds upon the existing Narragansett Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve’s Sentinel Sites Program to conduct more detailed monitoring at a smaller set of six to eight sites in Rhode Island. Tier 3 metrics would also be developed for monitoring specific projects and management actions including enhancing marsh drainage, or enhancing marsh elevation with dredged materials.
The results from this statewide monitoring and assessment program will be used to evaluate the overall status and condition of the state’s salt marshes, show changes over time, evaluate management results, and prioritize areas where resources should be directed toward management actions.
“This program is particularly important to the CRMC because it will help inform us which projects should be prioritized and how to get the most benefit for investment of our state and federal resources,” said CRMC Coastal Policy Analyst Caitlin Chaffee. “The State and its partners in habitat restoration want to give our salt marshes their best chance at survival, and this program will allow us to do that.”