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Project Planning

Seagrass - Salt Marsh - Anadromous Fish Habitat


It is important to carefully consider and prioritize the selection of seagrass restoration sites. Because funds for restoration are limited, it is essential that the site selection process generates a list of alternatives that offer the best chance of achieving the greatest output, both in terms of acreage restored, and the degree of function achieved.

Site Selection | Goals & Objectives | Baseline Data | Funding | Permitting

Site Selection
Unsuccessful seagrass restoration projects are usually the result of improper site selection (Fonseca 1994). Salinity, depth, current and wave energy, water clarity, water temperature, sediment characteristics, and surface water quality are all important factors to evaluate in the selection of a restoration site. Depth and water clarity exert the primary controls over seagrass zonation and the degree of colonization by epiphytes. The parameters of the transplant site must closely match that of the donor, or reference site, if restoration success is to be realized (Kenworthy and Fonseca 1977, Phillips 1980a, Fonseca and Fisher 1986, Fonseca et al. 1987a, Fonseca et al. 1998).

Save The Bay and University of Rhode Island (URI) Graduate School of Oceanography (GSO) have developed a GIS-based seagrass site selection tool for Narragansett Bay. Model inputs include depth, light intensity, and presence of current and historical eelgrass beds. This model is based on a similar model developed by Dr. Fred Short (at the University of New Hampshire). NOAA, in partnership with Save The Bay, Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC), and the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) Narragansett Bay Estuary Program, has expanded the Bay model to include all of coastal Rhode Island. This site selection tool incorporates depth, light, temperature, and the presence of current and historical eelgrass beds in order to prioritize areas for potential restoration. It also provides users with the ability to further prioritize areas based on commercial and recreational use in order to limit potential use conflicts. More details on the tool and its availability for use in restoration planning can be accessed in the Seagrass Site Selection Tool section of this Web site.

A considerable number of potential locations for eelgrass restoration may be present in Narragansett Bay and along Rhode Island's South Shore. Evaluation of site-specific factors (e.g., water quality and clarity, navigation constraints, fisheries, transplant and seeding costs, etc) would result in a prioritization or ranking of potential sites to be considered for funding. The Seagrass Site Selection tool can be a valuable aid in the site screening and prioritization process.

Goals and Objectives
As with restoration of other coastal habitats, eelgrass restoration project goals and objectives must be clearly defined and consistent (Fonseca 1994, Pastorok et al. 1997, Short et al. 2000). It is important to determine the goal and objectives of an eelgrass restoration project at the outset. Eelgrass restoration projects that lack clearly defined goals and objectives are less likely to achieve success, and in many cases it may be impossible to gauge success in the absence of a clearly defined project plan.

Project goals refer to the ecosystem attributes to be restored, such as water quality and clarity, hydrodynamics, epiphyte or macroalgae communities, or finfish and shellfish resources. Project objectives are more precise, and may include the specific characteristics of water quality, hydrodynamics, or plant and animal communities to be restored. Performance indicators are developed during the life of the project and represent measurable characteristics such as the percent cover of eelgrass transplant units, or the number of stems per transplant.

An example of a goal for an eelgrass restoration project in Rhode Island could be to restore eelgrass to a particular area that has undergone considerable improvement in water quality in recent years. The objective of such a project might be to re-establish native eelgrass to a coverage of 60 percent of the designated study area within three years post-construction.

Baseline Data Collection
Detailed site characterizations are needed to formulate site-specific restoration plans and to develop success criteria for individual projects. Examples of baseline data that are collected during pre-restoration baseline surveys of eelgrass transplant sites may include:

  • water quality (ammonium, nitrite/nitrate, phosphorus, dissolved and particulate organic carbon, chlorophyll a, turbidity, total suspended solids [TSS])
  • light attenuation
  • current/wave energy
  • epiphyte load
  • utilization of the site by fish or macrocrustaceans
  • benthic invertebrate communities

For more details on how these data are collected, please see Habitat Monitoring.

Funding Opportunities
The costs of restoration are largely dependent on site-specific conditions and the types of restoration and monitoring activities planned for a project (see Cost Analysis for details). A variety of federal and non-federal funding opportunities are available to support seagrass restoration in Rhode Island. These funds are available to a wide range of organizations including state and local agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGO). A comprehensive list of funding opportunities for seagrass restoration in Rhode Island is available from this site in the Funding Opportunities section.

Permitting and Regulatory Considerations
Agencies, NGO's or individuals proposing the restoration of seagrass beds in Rhode Island must secure a variety of permits prior to construction of the project. These permits may include a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Clean Water Act section 404 permit, a CRMC permit, and a DEM water quality certification. Specific information on the permitting process, CRMC and USACE permit applications, and contact information for all permitting agencies is available in the Permitting Process section of this site.

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Fonseca, M.S. 1994. A guide to transplanting seagrasses in the Gulf of Mexico. Texas A&M University Sea Grant College Program, TAMU-SG-94-601.

Fonseca, M.S. and J.S. Fisher. 1986. A comparison of canopy friction and sediment movement between four species of seagrass with reference to their ecology and restoration. Marine Ecology Progress Series 29:15-22.

Fonseca, M.S., W.J. Kenworthy, and G.W. Thayer. 1987a. Transplanting of the seagrasses Halodule wrightii, Syringodium filiforme, and Thalassia testudinum for sediment stabilization and habitat development in the southeast region of the United States. Technical Report EL-87-8, U.S. Army Engineer Waterways Experiment Station, Vicksburg, Mississippi.

Fonseca, M.S., W.J. Kenworthy, and G.W. Thayer. 1998. Guidelines for the conservation and restoration of seagrasses in the United States and adjacent waters. NOAA Coastal Ocean Program Decision Analysis Series No. 12. NOAA Coastal Ocean Office, Silver Spring, Maryland.

Kenworthy, W.J. and M. Fonseca. 1977. Reciprocal transplant of the seagrass Zostera marina L. effect of substrate on growth. Aquaculture 12:197-213.

Pastorok, R.A., A. MacDonald, J.R. Sampson, P. Wilber, D.J. Yozzo, and J.P. Titre. 1997. An ecological decision framework for environmental restoration projects. Ecological Engineering 9:89-107.

Phillips, R.C. 1980a. Planting guidelines for seagrasses. Coastal Engineering Technical Aid No. 80-2. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Coastal Engineering Research Center, Fort Belvoir, Virginia.

Short, F.T., D.M. Burdick, C.A. Short, R.C. Davis, and P.A. Morgan. 2000. Developing success criteria for restored eelgrass, salt marsh and mud flat habitats. Ecological Engineering 15:239-252.

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Project Partner web pages - RIHRT, CRMC, NBEP, STB

This site was created through a partnership of the:

Coastal Resources Management Council
Narragansett Bay Estuary Program
Save The Bay®