Blue carbon storage—carbon sequestration in coastal wetlands—can help coastal managers and policymakers achieve broader wetlands management, restoration, and conservation goals, in part by securing payment for carbon credits. The Waquoit Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve has been at the forefront of blue carbon research, working with end users to provide the information and tools needed to bring blue carbon projects to the carbon market. While end users are becoming more interested in the opportunities that carbon markets present, they are limited by uncertainties, particularly the potential transaction costs associated with bringing a wetland restoration project to market.
Through this project, the Waquoit Bay Reserve and its partners are building on efforts from Phase 1 of the “Bringing Wetlands to Market in Massachusetts” project. The team is working with end users to test the broader applicability of a previously developed model to accurately predict greenhouse gas fluxes across a wide range of coastal wetlands using a few environmental and ecological variables. The team is exploring, and working to fill, the blue carbon-related information needs of end users. One effort involves conducting a first-of-its-kind carbon market feasibility study for a wetland restoration project. The team is also developing targeted tools and education programs for coastal managers, decision makers, and teachers. These efforts will build an understanding of blue carbon and the capacity to integrate blue carbon considerations into restoration and management decisions.
Nature-based, ecologically enhanced, or soft shoreline stabilization techniques have the potential to maintain and enhance important ecological services, provide greater resilience to physical forces, and be cost-competitive with traditional approaches. In order for these techniques to be used more widely in the Hudson River Estuary, their performance must be demonstrated and evaluated locally. Landowners, site designers, and decision makers have expressed this need to enhance their confidence in proposing innovative designs to clients, investing in sustainable shoreline construction, and steering permit applications toward these less traditional options.
Over the past eight years, the Science Collaborative has supported the Hudson River Sustainable Shorelines Project, which engages a regional research team to quantify the ecological functions and physical stresses on the full range of Hudson River shorelines. This research is the basis for development of information and tools needed by regulators, engineers, and resource managers to identify the best settings and approaches for sustainable shoreline protection in the Hudson River Estuary. The current project expands that work by 1) developing and fieldvalidating rapid assessment protocols for physical and ecological functions of ecologically enhanced shorelines; and 2) training local land managers in these protocols. This work will solidify confidence in the suitability of novel shoreline techniques in the Hudson River Estuary and enable local managers to track performance.
Coastal restoration efforts are critical to restoring habitat, 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.
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 their potential to address the 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 confronts two critical obstacles to the advancement of public understanding of science. First, there is a need for K-12 teaching resources and professional development that will help teachers demonstrate scientific research practices and teach critical thinking skills. Second, while the best source of authentic, current, and topical research examples is scientists themselves, research scientists are often poorly trained to communicate their science to a broad audience. This project will enhance K-12 science curriculum by providing teachers with resources that offer authentic examples of the research process and how science is applied to solve problems. It will also enhance graduate students’ science communication skills by providing formal training and an opportunity to translate their research into activities for secondary classrooms.
Nature-based shoreline stabilization techniques have the potential to maintain and enhance important ecological services, provide greater resilience to physical forces, and be cost-competitive with traditional approaches. Over the past eight years, the Hudson River Sustainable Shorelines Project has engaged a regional team to develop the information and tools needed by regulators, engineers, and resource managers. These groups will identify the best settings and approaches for nature-based shoreline protection in the Hudson Estuary. Considerable knowledge is available about alternative techniques, current research, and regional conditions. However, there is a need to develop a common understanding of what resources are available, what is still needed, and how the review of proposed actions could be standardized. The Hudson River National Estuarine Research Reserve is workng with New York State agencies to capture what is known about nature-based shoreline stabilization approaches and other natural and nature-based features to reduce risk and enhance resilience.
The Gulf Coast continues to lose coastal wetlands at an alarming rate. In addition to improving water quality, stabilizing shorelines, and providing habitat, coastal wetlands sequester and store significant amounts of carbon in their soils. Valuation of this climate mitigation service, referred to as blue carbon, could lead to increased prioritization and funding for coastal conservation and restoration. Moreover, coastal managers are asked to consider greenhouse gas management implications of their decisions. For example, when coastal ecosystems are degraded or drained, the carbon stored in their soils can be released back into the atmosphere, resulting in significant emissions. Emerging carbon markets could provide funding for wetland conservation and restoration, supporting the protection of these substantial carbon stores. Restore America’s Estuaries is partnering with the Gulf of Mexico Coastal Training Program Initiative and the five research reserves in the Gulf Coast to promote blue carbon projects.
Nationwide, farmers have experienced a rising demand for locally grown foods. Consumers are beginning to realize what farmers have long known: eating farm-fresh food, carefully grown by members of their own communities, spreads tangible benefits for public health and local economies. Small farmers are more likely to employ low-impact and conservation-oriented agricultural practices than large industrial farms. At the same time, small farmers face a host of economic challenges, including access to markets, loans, and start-up capital.
This fact sheet provides a summary of how the Dow Fellows student team explored USDA farm census data to identify unique areas in Washtenaw County, and locations that fit the national and statewide trends.
At the Graham Sustainability Institute, our dedication to academic excellence for the public good is inseparable from our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Our mission of engaging, empowering, and supporting faculty, staff and students to foster sustainability solutions includes ensuring that each member of our community thrives. In response to the University’s renewed commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, the Graham Institute developed a five-year plan to address how we will ensure that each member of our community has full opportunity to thrive.
The health of the Great Bay Estuary is strongly influenced by stressors from across the watershed. Seven rivers flow into the estuary, which is recessed 15 miles from the Atlantic Ocean. While science and case studies clearly demonstrate the value of vegetated buffers along these rivers in promoting a healthy estuary, New Hampshire does not yet consistently or effectively use buffers to protect the Great Bay Estuary. This project will enhance stakeholder capacity to make informed decisions on the protection and restoration of buffers around the Great Bay Estuary by addressing the following question: What are the options for addressing the challenges to effectively protect and restore buffer zones around New Hampshire’s Great Bay? The project will support strategic agency and nonprofit investments; inform strategies for outreach professionals to work with towns on water quality improvement, habitat protection, climate adaptation, and nonpoint source pollution control; and lead to new research questions.
In estuaries worldwide, the loss of salt marshes and oyster reefs has been alarming, especially along high-energy coastlines. To dampen boat wake and wave stress, mitigate erosion, and restore oysters, managers are using more natural bank stabilization techniques—often referred to as living shorelines—adjacent to salt marsh edges. These efforts have been largely unsuccessful in achieving coastal management goals under the most destructive, high-energy conditions. This project will test the efficacy of a new strategy for protecting coastal habitat in high-energy environments. A research team will integrate engineering and ecological approaches by deploying “gabion-breaks,” a hybrid method for building living shorelines to protect and restore coastlines. Over three years, boat wake and wave energy, oyster reef development, and salt marsh edge movement will be monitored along reaches of shoreline with and without gabion-breaks. The team will measure their success in protecting and enhancing coastal habitat. The project team will incorporate their findings into training activities for restoration practitioners and coastal managers as well as interpretive exhibits for reserve visitors.