RI Receives Grant for Marsh Grass Study

Photo by Tom Richardson

The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) has been awarded a $500,000 federal research grant to lead a nation-wide study examining strategies to enhance salt marsh resilience against the effects of climate change. The 2-year study is being led by the Narragansett Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR), which is managed by DEM, and will evaluate thin layer sediment placement as an adaptation strategy to improve marsh resilience against rising sea levels. As part of the national effort, this study will involve eight other National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR) sites across the country. The NERR system is a state-federal partnership program established between NOAA and the coastal states to preserve and protect coastal lands for long-term research and education.

While salt marshes are one of the most productive ecosystems on earth and provide important economic and environmental benefits, they are being threatened by rising sea levels. Because they exist along a very narrow elevation zone, when flooded with water for too long, or too often, they will eventually drown. In many places, increasing rates of sea-level rise are outpacing the marshes’ natural ability to adapt, negatively affecting their resiliency and the wildlife that depend on them.

With this grant, researchers at the Narragansett Bay NERR on Prudence Island hope to evaluate how marshes respond to the addition of various amounts of sediment at different marsh elevations and compare these results to similar work being done by project partners across the country.