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Keywords:

  • estuary;
  • monitoring protocol;
  • regional assessment;
  • salt marsh;
  • tidal restoration

Abstract

We compiled salt marsh monitoring datasets from 36 complete or imminent restoration projects in the Gulf of Maine to assess regional monitoring and restoration practices. Data were organized by functional indicators and restoration project types (culvert replacement, excavation works, or ditch plugging) then pooled to generate mean values for indicators before restoration, after restoration, and at reference sites. Monitoring data were checked against the regional standards of a voluntary protocol for the Gulf of Maine. Data inventories showed that vegetation and salinity indicators were most frequently collected (89 and 78% of sites, respectively), whereas nekton, bird, and hydrologic measures were collected at only about half of the sites. Reference conditions were monitored at 72% of sites. Indicators were analyzed to see if project sites were degraded relative to reference areas and to detect ecological responses to restoration activities. Results showed that compared to reference areas, prerestoration sites had smaller tidal ranges, reduced salinity levels, greater cover of brackish plants species, and lower cover of halophyte plants. Following restoration, physical factors rebounded rapidly with increased flood and salinity levels after about one year, especially for culvert projects. Biological responses were less definitive and occurred over longer time frames. Plant communities trended toward recovered halophytes and reduced brackish species at 3+ years following restoration. Nekton and avian indicators were indistinguishable among reference, impacted, and restored areas. The protocol was successful in demonstrating restoration response for the region, but results were limited by regional inconsistencies in field practices and relatively few multiyear datasets. To improve future assessment capabilities, we encourage greater adherence to the standard protocol throughout the Gulf of Maine salt marsh restoration community.