November 27, 2023

Growing Resilience: A Planting Event in Collins Cove, Massachusetts

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Background

Coastal salt marshes are crucial ecosystems, offering flood management, carbon sequestration, nutrient retention, and biodiversity. Threatened by rising sea levels, nutrient runoff, extreme weather, and urban development, salt marsh restoration is increasingly critical. However, practitioners often face limitations in accessing locally sourced plant materials, which can better withstand diverse conditions and support coastal resiliency.

Ramboll Americas Engineering Solutions (Ramboll) and Northeastern University, with support from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Engineering With Nature® (EWN) program, have partnered with Salem Sound CoastWatch, Mystic River Watershed Association (MyRWA), Friends of Belle Isle Marsh, and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) to assess biodiversity and ecological function in MA wetlands. The project examines genetic diversity and restoration performance of cordgrass, comparing local ecotypes with
commercial varieties.

One Plant at a Time

As of October 2033, seeds and leaf tissue from nearby marshes have found a new home in Collins Cove. Over 1,700 local and commercial cordgrass stocks have been planted, enriching biodiversity and fortifying against coastal challenges. The initial planting marks the starting point of ongoing scientific observation. Researchers are closely monitoring the growth and characteristics of these plants to understand their role in enhancing coastal resilience.

Living Shoreline at Collins Cove, Salem, MA USA
Dr. Randall Hughes (Northeastern University) and Barbra Warren (Salem Sound Coastwatch) working with students and volunteers to stake planting locations

Path Forward

The project extends further than the planting phase. Its broader aim is to comprehend the adaptability of native plants in this environment, offering potential strategies for safeguarding coastlines and nearby communities.

  • Conduct comprehensive genetic analysis of both local and commercial stocks, led by Northeastern University
  • Ensure continual monitoring of planted cordgrass for relevant phenotypic traits
  • Thoroughly analyze all collected data for comprehensive insights
  • Compile and finalize the research report; publish significant findings in scholarly manuscripts
  • Schedule regular collaborative meetings for ongoing coordination
  • Ensure timely sharing of data among all stakeholders
  • Oversee continuous site management activities in collaboration with Salem Sound Coastwatch
Mandi Miller (Ramboll) and volunteers planting 1,700 plugs of Spartina patens and Spartina alternaflora

Planting Partners

Barbra Warren & Volunteers
Salem Sound Coastwatch

Dr. Randall Hughes & Students
Northeastern University

Sara Copp Franz &
Dr. Molly McDermott

Ramboll Americas Engineering Solutions

Multiple Volunteers
The Nature Conservancy

Catherine Pedemonti
The Mystic River Watershed Association

Dr. Andrew McQueen
USACE ERDC

Research Projects

This project leverages partner collaboration and incorporates the use of EWN® principles to increase climate resilien...
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