Habitat Monitoring Protocols
- Salt Marsh - Anadromous
Monitoring involves systematic data collection that
provides information on the progress of restoration projects and
allows restoration practitioners to determine if project goals have
been met. Monitoring involves the measurement of a number of attributes
or parameters at regular intervals to record changes. A salt marsh
restoration site should be monitored until it appears mature and
self-sustaining, which could take years to decades. Salt marsh restoration
sites should be paired with "undisturbed" reference wetlands
for monitoring. Ideally, reference sites should be used for collection
of baseline data as well. Reference sites should be similar to
restoration sites in terms of geomorphology, tidal range, and elevation.
Suggested parameters to be monitored at salt marsh restoration
and reference sites include:
Currently, Save The Bay is involved in the development of standardized
monitoring protocols for salt marsh restoration projects throughout
Rhode Island. Two monitoring programs and approaches for salt marsh
restoration projects are detailed online below.
Neckles, H.A. and M. Dionne, Editors. 1999. Regional
Standards to Identify and Evaluate Tidal Wetlands Restoration in
the Gulf of Maine. Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve
Technical Report, Wells, Maine.
View report (PDF)
Niedowski, N. L. 2000. New
York State Salt Marsh Restoration and Monitoring Guidelines.
New York Department of State, Albany, N.Y. and the New York Department
of Environmental Conservation, East Setauket, N.Y.
View report (PDF)
Duration of Monitoring
Availability of funds and resources often limits the duration that
salt marsh restoration projects can be monitored, however the duration
and frequency of monitoring must be sufficient for a determination
of functional equivalency with reference sites. Neckles and Dionne
(1999) recommend monitoring salt marsh restoration projects at one year,
two years, and three to five years post-restoration.
The principles of Adaptive Management have been incorporated into
the administration of habitat restoration projects within a variety
of governmental funding authorities and programs (Thom
1997). Comprehensive, long-term monitoring is a component of adaptive
management, which relies on the accumulation of evidence (via long-term
monitoring) to support a decision that demands action. If established early in the project planning phase
and implemented during successive monitoring and management phases,
adaptive management can be a powerful method to systematically assess
and improve the performance of restored ecosystems (Thom 2000).
A well-designed restoration monitoring program will allow project
managers to detect deviation from projected results months, years,
or decades following construction. For example, yearly monitoring
of a restored salt marsh might reveal encroachment by Phragmites
or other invasive plant species. Hydrologic monitoring may reveal
deficiencies in the design of a culvert or water control structure,
which may result in insufficient drainage. Manual harvesting or
chemical control may be periodically required to control the spread
of invasive plants. The specific design features of a culvert or
water control structure may require enhancement or modification
during successive years to optimize tidal flow patterns
Monitoring data can be used by project managers to demonstrate
the ability of the project to meet stated goals and objectives.
This is especially important in promoting the benefits of salt marsh
restoration to funding agencies, potential partners or sponsors for
future restoration projects, and the general public. Finally, long-term
monitoring data allows managers to learn from early projects, and
avoid potential pitfalls in successive restoration efforts (Thom
and Wellman 1997).
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Neckles, H. and M. Dionne. 1999. Regional standards to identify
and evaluate tidal wetland restoration in the Gulf of Maine. A GPAC
Worksop, June 2-3, 1999. Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve,
Thom, R.M. 1997. System-development matrix for adaptive management
of coastal ecosystem restoration projects. Ecological Engineering
Thom, R.M. 2000. Adaptive management of coastal ecosystem restoration
projects. Ecological Engineering 15:365-372.
Thom, R.M. and K.F. Wellman. 1997. Planning aquatic ecosystem restoration
monitoring programs. Evaluation of Environmental Investments Research
Program, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Institute for Water Resources,
IWR Report 96-R-23, Alexandria, Virginia.
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a partnership of the:
Coastal Resources Management Council
Narragansett Bay Estuary Program
Save The Bay®