Graham Sustainability Institute

End-User Derived Research to Improve the Effectiveness, Sustainability, and Prevalence of Coastal Restoration Projects

Why this work?

Coastal habitats have been heavily degraded over the course of human history, with major declines seen in oyster reefs and coastal wetlands. Coastal restoration efforts are critical to restoring these habitats, but projects are often carried out with little to no monitoring and evaluation of success. Without monitoring and evaluation, it is difficult to make comparisons across restoration designs to determine which are most functional, sustainable, and cost-effective. This reality, in combination with limited “best practices” resources for coastal restoration, significantly hinders project implementation.

About this project

The project team is collaborating with a group of coastal managers, researchers, and outreach specialists to help fill these gaps and evaluate several coastal restoration designs at the Weeks Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. The designs compare nursery-grown marsh plants with naturally colonized marshes both with and without offshore breakwaters. Additionally, these combinations of restoration designs are being evaluated for the potential effects of sea-level rise. Information gained from this research, and the regulatory knowledge provided by the advisory group, will be combined with pre-existing literature to produce manuals and workshops and inform stakeholder meetings. The project team will share the manuals and workshops with private property owners, contractors, and agencies. The research and outreach associated with this project will improve the effectiveness and ease of implementation of coastal restoration projects.

This project follows a previously supported Science Collaborative project from the National Estuarine Research Reserve System that examined the effectiveness of varying densities of marsh plantings at removing nutrients. More information is found here.

Project lead and contact

Eric Sparks, Mississippi State University and Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium, Email:

To learn more, view the project factsheet (PDF).