Restoration principles emerging from one of the world's largest tidal marsh restoration projects

Abstract

One of the world's largest tidal wetland restorationprojects was conceived to offset the loss of nekton toonce-through cooling at a power plant on Delaware Bay,USA. An aggregated food chain model was employed toestimate the area of tidal salt marsh required toreplace these losses. The 5040 ha was comprised of twodegraded marsh types – Phragmites- dominatedmarshes and diked salt hay farms – at elevenlocations in oligo-mesohaline and polyhaline reachesof the estuary. At a series of ‘summits’ convened withnoted experts in the field, it was decided to apply anecological engineering approach (i.e., ‘self design’,and minimal intrusion) in a landscape ecologyframework to the restoration designs while at the sametime monitoring long-term success of the project inthe context of a ‘bound of expectation’. The latterencompassed a range of reference marsh planforms andacceptable end-points established interactively withtwo advisory committees, numerous resource agencies,the permitting agency and multiple-stakeholder groups.In addition to the technical recommendations providedby the project's advisors, public health and safety,property protection and public access to the restoredsites were a constant part of the dialogue between theutility, its consulting scientists and theresource/permitting agencies. Adaptive management wasused to maintain the restoration trajectories, ensurethat success criteria were met in a timely fashion,and to protect the public against potential effects ofsalt intrusion into wells and septic systems, andagainst upland flooding. Herbicide spray, followed byprescribed burns and altered microtopography were usedat Phragmites-dominated sites, and excavation ofhigher order channels and dike breaching were themethods used to initiate the restorations at the dikedsalt hay farms. Monitoring consisted of evaluating therate of re-vegetation and redevelopment of naturaldrainage networks, nekton response to therestorations, and focused research on nutrient flux,nekton movements, condition factors, trophic linkages,and other specific topics. Because of its size anduniqueness, the Estuary Enhancement Program as thisproject is known, has become an important case studyfor scientists engaged in restoration ecology and theapplication of ecological engineering principles. Thehistory of this project, and ultimately theRestoration Principles that emerged from it, are thesubjects of this paper. By documenting the pathways tosuccess, it is hoped that other restoration ecologistsand practitioners will benefit from the experiences wehave gained.

DOI: 10.1023/A:1012058713910

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Cite this paper

@article{Weinstein2004RestorationPE, title={Restoration principles emerging from one of the world's largest tidal marsh restoration projects}, author={Michael P. P. Weinstein and John M. Teal and John H. Balletto and Kenneth A. Strait}, journal={Wetlands Ecology and Management}, year={2004}, volume={9}, pages={387-407} }