|What's happening? |
Investigators from the University of Maryland have partnered with the Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve and others to increase the resilience of coastal marsh and communities on Maryland's Deal Island Peninsula in the face of sea level rise.
With a $598,645 grant from the NERRS Science Collaborative, the team is using the Collaborative Learning methodology to identify which services provided by marshlands are highly valued by local communities, understand how current management practices impact the marshes’ ability to provide these services, and develop a process for stakeholders to work together to conserve and restore marshes for the future.
In the process, the team will conduct economic, anthropological, and ecological research to better understand coastal marsh systems and their surrounding communities, develop a strong regional network for future collaboration, and test a model for engaging a range of stakeholders in ecosystem science and decision making.
Why this project?As sea levels rise along Maryland’s coast, marshlands are degraded and lost, taking with them vital services — such as protection from storm surges and inundation — and placing surrounding communities at risk. This vulnerability is intensified by the impacts of historic land use practices. For example, wetland ditching — used from the 1930s to the 1950s to ostensibly control mosquito-borne disease — may limit the ability of marshes to grow vertically in response to sea-level rise.
While there is an urgent need to address this problem, key stakeholders from different sectors and levels of government lack the collaborative, problem-solving partnerships needed to create cost effective, efficient solutions that optimize the social and environmental tradeoffs between different management choices. These stakeholders also need science-based information about how the marsh’s ecological systems function in relationship to the surrounding communities, and what the outcomes of different approaches to marshland management might be.
This project is using restoration of ditch-drained marshes on the Deal Island Peninsula as a case study for conducting the necessary science, developing partnerships, and testing a stakeholder-driven process for developing management strategies that protect the resilience of marshlands and the communities that depend on them.