Jackson Estuarine Laboratory

Developing success criteria for restored eelgrass, salt marsh and mud flat habitats


When estuarine habitats are restored, it is crucial to determine their success or failure. How can we tell, bringing a minimum of preconceived notions to the task and using a valid scientific process, if the functions and values of habitats have been recreated and returned to the estuary? In the New Hampshire Port Mitigation Project (1993–1995), we formulated literature-based success criteria (SC), but could not quantitatively defend their scientific validity. We are now using the project as a laboratory for developing and testing rigorous SC. We developed indicators of chosen habitat functions, then created statistical representations of natural, local reference sites for comparison to the functional development of restored habitats. An explanation of the steps in developing and testing the method are followed by a test application of our SC methodology using the data from eelgrass transplant sites (6.2 acres) created for the New Hampshire Port Mitigation Project. At the same time, we are developing a methodology for a more generic model of SC that we are applying to the restorations of salt marsh and mud flat for the Port Mitigation. We believe the methodology to develop and apply SC is transferable to other locations and habitats not only because of its objective foundation but because it is based on data collected locally.


Jackson Estuarine Laboratory, Natural Resources and the Environment

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Ecological Engineering


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