Hurricane Sandy Recovery
Recovery, restoration & building coastal resilience
Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge - USFWS
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Increasing Resiliency of Tidal Marsh Habitats and Species in the Face of Storms and Sea Level Rise

Location: CT, DE, MA, MD, ME, NH, NJ, NY, RI, VA

Project type: Resilience

Funding awarded: $2.2 million

Project Summary

This project is coordinating efforts by Landscape Conservation Cooperative (LCC) partners to integrate existing data, models and tools with foundational data and impact assessments to guide decisions about where to conduct tidal marsh restoration, conservation and management. The goal of the project is to sustain ecological values, ecosystem services, habitat suitability and resiliency of tidal marshes and marsh species in the face of storm impacts, sea level rise and other stressors.

Conservation Goals

  • Compile and summarize initial results of assessments of impacts of Hurricane Sandy on tidal marshes and marsh-dependent species.
  • Compile regionally consistent spatial data, including elevation, tidal restrictions, ditches, and hardened structures.
  • Monitor and assess the effectiveness of tidal wetland restorations completed in response to Hurricane Sandy for increasing resiliency of marshes and marsh species to future storms and sea-level rise. Use this information to develop best management practices for future restorations and prioritize locations with the highest likelihood of success.
  • Develop models for understanding future impacts of sea-level rise and storms on tidal marshes along with other stressors such as urban growth to address critical management decisions for increasing resiliency through marsh restoration, management and protection at regional and local scales.
  • Incorporate models for sea-level rise and storms into the North Atlantic Landscape Conservation Cooperative (LCC) modeling framework in combination with other predicted effects of climate change, urban growth, conservation and management on tidal wetlands and adjacent uplands to understand combined habitat and species impacts and thereby guide decision making across a number of goals.
  • Develop fine-scale GIS layers that can be integrated with other ecological integrity assessment tools and used to identify sites with the highest estimated site resilience. The layers to be produced include: accretion/erosion rates, slope, average tidal height, average wave height, relative sea level rise rate, elevation diversity, marsh migration space, sediment supply, freshwater flushing rates and anthropogenic barriers.
  • Decision support tools, maps and monitoring results from the North Atlantic LCC marsh and beach Hurricane Sandy coastal resiliency projects will be made available and delivered along with other coastal resiliency information to decision makers at scales and formats needed.

Project Products

  • Detailed descriptions of tidal marsh bird and vegetation communities at restoration and control sites surveyed, associated data sets, and initial assessment of restoration effectiveness.
  • Spatially-located high resolution elevation data set for sites surveyed and a spatial data layer describing major tidal (e.g. high/low/pool/mixed) marsh plant communities from Virginia to Maine.
  • A coupled biological-hydrodynamic model marsh equilibrium model (MEM) and advanced circulation model (ADCIRC) parameterized for four estuaries to forecast marsh responses to sea-level rise and forecast storm surge with sea-level rise and with and without various types of restoration.
  • Enhance the Designing Sustainable Landscapes model with a tidal restriction stressor metric, a salt marsh ditching stressor metric and landscape capability models for additional tidal marsh obligate species. These improved coastal data layers and landscape capability models will be put into the Index of Ecological Integrity.  Dynamic coastal response to sea level rise outputs from USGS will also be integrated.
  • Fine-scale GIS layers that can be integrated with other ecological integrity assessment tools and used to identify sites with the highest estimated site resilience; sites of high vulnerability to climate change; and  sites where management of particular characteristics could increase its potential resilience.
  • Workshops and other training where coastal managers can learn about the results of the scientific investigations and modeling as well as spend time exploring the applicability of the products for their programmatic needs.

Project Partners

  • Louisiana State University
  • Mid-Atlantic Regional Ocean Council
  • National Park Service (NPS)
  • Northeast Climate Science Center
  • Northeast Regional Ocean Council
  • Saltmarsh Habitat and Avian Research Program (SHARP)
    • University of Connecticut
    • University of Maine
    • University of Delaware
    • University of New Hampshire
    • State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY-ESF)
    • Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife
  • University of Massachusetts Amherst
  • University of South Carolina
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  • U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
  • The Nature Conservancy (TNC)

Additional Resources

North Atlantic Landscape Conservation Cooperative Coastal Resiliency Tidal Marsh Project Description

North Atlantic Landscape Conservation Cooperative Coastal Resiliency Workspace

Salt Marsh Habitat Avian Response Program

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Last updated: November 4, 2016