Get SMART: A new computer model, SMART, helps coastal managers predict the outcome of proposed salt marsh restoration projects.
Project Title: Salt Marsh Assessment and Restoration Tool (SMART)
Shaped by tidal ebb and flow, salt marshes are among the most productive of ecosystems. They are essential habitat for many species, and their ability to capture pollutants in stormwater runoff improves coastal water quality. Yet increased development places these vital habitats at risk. Roads, bridges, and other structures dissect salt marshes, restricting the flow of water and wildlife between ocean and marsh. This starves a marsh of sediment, causing it to sink and pool with freshwater, which makes it vulnerable to invasive species. Today more than 350 tidally of these restricted marshes in the Gulf of Maine are candidates for restoration. Such projects can be costly, however, and coastal managers need the right tools to plan the best course of actionólong before the first shovel hits the ground.
Researchers validated an earlier version of SMART at two previously restored Gulf of Maine sites. When they input pre-restoration conditions and the changes that had been made to restore tidal flow, the SMART model predicted, with 96 percent accuracy, how much salt marsh habitat had been recovered.
Researchers are making a version of SMART available to coastal managers throughout the Gulf of Maine, including those at the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management, Maine and New Hampshire coastal programs, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Restoration Center for use at the federal level. Researchers have held workshops and training sessions with state resource managers, and believe the model will also be useful in academic settings. Although SMART's ecological component is specific to New England's salt marsh vegetation, the range of some species may make SMART useful as far south as the mid-Atlantic states. Adaptations of the model using different plant species could extend its applicability to other regions. A CD of an early version of SMART is available free, upon request, from Dr. Konisky: email@example.com.