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Keywords:

  • assessment;
  • monitoring protocols;
  • salt marsh;
  • tidal restoration;
  • tidal restrictions

Abstract

Assessing the response of salt marshes to tidal restoration relies on comparisons of ecosystem attributes between restored and reference marshes. Although this approach provides an objective basis for judging project success, inferences can be constrained if the high variability of natural marshes masks differences in sampled attributes between restored and reference sites. Furthermore, such assessments are usually focused on a small number of restoration projects in a local area, limiting the ability to address questions regarding the effectiveness of restoration within a broad region. We developed a hierarchical approach to evaluate the performance of tidal restorations at local and regional scales throughout the Gulf of Maine. The cornerstone of the approach is a standard protocol for monitoring restored and reference salt marshes throughout the region. The monitoring protocol was developed by consensus among nearly 50 restoration scientists and practitioners. The protocol is based on a suite of core structural measures that can be applied to any tidal restoration project. The protocol also includes additional functional measures for application to specific projects. Consistent use of the standard protocol to monitor local projects will enable pooling information for regional assessments. Ultimately, it will be possible to establish a range of reference conditions characterizing natural tidal wetlands in the region and to compare performance curves between populations of restored and reference marshes for assessing regional restoration effectiveness.