Research & Conservation

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The Merits of the Marsh

Wetlands are incredibly important and biologically diverse ecosystems. Many species of plants and animals spend their entire lives in wetlands. Many others find food in wetlands, use them as nesting or nursery grounds or stop in them to rest during migration.

Wetlands help to maintain water quality and marsh grasses slow run-off and allow sediments to fall out of suspension. Marsh plants remove excess nutrients and marsh mud can remove toxic heavy metals from the water. Wetlands help to control floods and reduce erosion during storms. Coastal wetlands provide valuable open space for recreation, education and research, while at the same time protecting the mainland from the destructive power of storm waves.

At The Wetlands Institute, we seek to have the salt marsh be a place where both children and adults can learn to understand the important role this ecosystem plays. So stop in for a visit, take a stroll along the walkway, and enjoy your self-guided exploration of the salt marsh.

Coastal Sustainability and Wetland Health

The Coastal Sustainability and Wetland Health program began with efforts to document the impact of sea level rise on marshes and marsh-dependent species. Our work is increasingly focused on understating the responses of marshes and wildlife to marsh restoration and habitat creation. Thanks to generous grants from The Wiseman Family Foundation, The Davenport Family Foundation, The Leff Family Foundation, The Ward Family Foundation, and the NJ Corporate Wetlands Restoration Partnership, our scientists have been incredibly busy serving as the eyes and ears of the marsh. We maintain a comprehensive network of programs through which we and our partners are tracking theses ecosystems.

Since 2016, we have established a variety of wetland elevation, water chemistry, and water elevation monitoring stations around The Wetlands Institute and at beneficial use project sites throughout the back bays. Using these systems, we can precisely measure changes to the marsh surface; monitor water chemistry here and in surrounding marshes; and understand the effects of sea level rise on the marshes. Combined with our work monitoring marsh vegetation, these stations allow us to understand how the marsh is responding to increased flooding under accelerating sea level rise. The data we gather through these efforts helps inform restoration projects.

We have enhanced these efforts with surveys of saltmarsh-dependent animals to document how sea-level rise and coastal flooding are impacting local populations, and how they are responding to habitat restoration and creation. The health of coastal bird and diamondback terrapin populations is intricately linked to the condition of coastal marsh systems. Changes in the number of animals in the marsh, how they are using the marsh, and their breeding success can indicate changes within the saltmarsh itself.

The Wetlands Institute has collected volumes of information over the years and new work continues to build these important data sets, helping our research scientists to better understand marsh usage by sensitive species. We are providing decision-makers with information about marsh conditions, and our efforts are helping guide management and restoration decisions so the coastal salt marshes can continue to play their critical role in coastal sustainability and storm protection for our community.

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