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New England Spotlight

Quantifying stem density and stem counts to evaluate restoration success.

Woods Hole Group offers a full suite of wetland services, including resource area delineation, ecological evaluation, and restoration planning and design. Although some of these services can be standalone tasks, the work we do for our clients is often interdisciplinary, and connected to larger projects that incorporate the many facets of Woods Hole Group’s expertise, including engineering design, hydrodynamic modeling, and/or environmental permitting. Two examples of Woods Hole Group’s interdisciplinary skill set include salt marsh restoration monitoring for regulatory compliance in Stage Harbor, and wetland resource monitoring to evaluate project impacts in Pleasant Bay, and are highlighted below.

Salt marsh monitoring for regulatory compliance: To comply with regulatory wetland mitigation requirements at a location along Stage Harbor, Woods Hole Group designed a site-specific salt marsh restoration project, constructed in partnership with Wilkinson Ecological Design. Following restoration, Woods Hole Group wetland scientists planned and implemented targeted restoration monitoring to evaluate the success of the project. Regulatory compliance requires that monitoring continue for at least three years, assuming the restoration is successful, and longer if additional planting is required in subsequent years. Wetland plant percent coverage and stem counts were quantified at randomly selected quadrats throughout the restoration area to evaluate project success. Moving forward, Woods Hole Group will utilize an adaptive management approach, evaluating where Spartina alterniflora was able to successfully establish, where survival was low, and develop a targeted approach to improve plant establishment and survival moving forward, to ensure restoration objectives are met.

Utilizing underwater photography facilitates confirmation and delineation of eelgrass beds.

Wetland monitoring to evaluate project impacts: Woods Hole Group’s wetland expertise extends into subtidal habitats as well. With beach nourishment and shoreline stabilization projects, there is sensitivity about the potential impacts to the surrounding intertidal and subtidal resource areas. As part of a long-term monitoring project to evaluate the impacts of a series of shore protection measures along a Pleasant Bay shoreline, Woods Hole Group has performed multiple years of wetland monitoring, including wetland delineations, and shellfish and eelgrass surveys, to quantify wetland losses and gains. Interestingly, despite concerns that clean sand placed for bank stabilization would be transported offshore and smother existing eelgrass beds, between 2015 and 2016, the eelgrass beds offshore the project location increased in area by 10%. Tthe Pleasant Bay system is extremely dynamic, with the most recent inlet formation in 2013. And a variety of factors could be influencing the success and expansion of the eelgrass habitat. Despite repeated beach nourishments and dune and bank restorations, the additional material does not appear to be harming this valuable subtidal resource area.

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Elise Leduc
Woods Hole Group
81 Technology Park Dr.
East Falmouth, MA 02536

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