Coastal Community Development

Objectives:The goal of this project is to work with coastal communities and non-profit organizations to monitor, protect, and if possible restore salt marsh habitats in coastal Massachusetts. Specific objectives include:(1) Develop and implement remote sensing methods to provide real-time data on marsh erosion, inundation, and subsidence, to improve understanding of the rates and causes of these processes, and the influence of climate change and sea level rise.(2) Monitor the biological communities to determine the effects of subsidence, erosion, and sea level rise on those communities.(3) Work with coastal towns, non-profit organizations, and landowners to share the findings of the research, improve understanding of coastal processes operating in salt marshes, and develop and implement policies or projects to slow habitat degradation and promote restoration. Methodology:Working in partnership with the Jones River Watershed Association and researchers at University of Massachusetts, Boston (Consortium for Ocean Sensing in the Nearshore Environment, COSINE), we will monitor geological and biological conditions in the marsh with a combination of remote sensing and on-the-ground techniques. Wireless network cameras will be deployed in key areas of change in a marsh for continuous visual monitoring of physical conditions and changes while minimizing physical damage to fragile marsh habitat. Annual geographic and biological surveys will be used to ground-truth the remotely sensed camera data. This project will be piloted in the Jones River marsh in Kingston, MA in years 1 and 2. Subsequently it will be expanded to other marshes of interest as indicated by reports from local conservation officers, reserve managers, non-profits, and other stakeholders.Rationale:Salt marshes are among the most important environmental resources on earth, providing numerous and well-established economic and environmental services. They protect coastal properties and infrastructure, improve water quality, provide nursery habitat for many important fishery species, and offer recreational and aesthetic enjoyment. The extent of salt marsh habitat in Massachusetts has been reduced by over 80% since European colonization, and the limited marshes that remain are severely impacted by human activity. One major threat to salt marshes in New England is erosion and subsidence, which will become even more critical as sea level rises. Understanding the causes and consequences of marsh loss is key to preventing further habitat degredation and promoting restoration.