Salt Marshes, Storm Surge, and Sea Level Rise: A Web-based Mapping Tool to Support Land Use Planning

Salt marshes are ecologically and economically important habitats. They serve as habitat and food sources for many species of fish and invertebrates, and help to purify storm runoff from land before it reaches the coastal ocean. In addition, they act as a buffer against storm surges and sea level rise, protecting the properties and infrastructure behind them. However, the health and quality of salt marshes (e.g., biodiversity and presence of invasive species, erosion, or tidal restrictions) can affect their ability to provide these environmental services.

With support from the National Sea Grant Office and in collaboration with the Massachusetts Bays Program and the Office of Coastal Zone Management, Dr. Juliet Simpson of MIT Sea Grant, assisted by MIT student, Owusu Ansah Agyeman Badu, conducted surveys of salt marshes in the towns of Duxbury, Kingston and Plymouth to study habitat quality and vulnerability to sea level rise. We measured biodiversity, tidal restrictions, land use, and other factors affecting ecosystem health. The results of these surveys will be made available through a web-based mapping tool, providing both homeowners and municipal planners with information to support adaptive management and land use decisions. A version of the map showing preliminary survey results can be found here.

This page was last modified: August 4, 2014 10:48 am


Juliet Simpson
Coastal Ecologist