Keeping Sediment in the System to Protect New Jersey’s Coast

Tidal salt-marshes cover over 200,000 acres of New Jersey’s coastal landscape, providing vital habitat for wildlife, maintaining water quality, and helping to protect people from storm surge and flooding. In fact, a recent study by TNC, Lloyds, and others concluded that New Jersey’s salt marshes prevented over $400 million in damages in New Jersey during Superstorm Sandy in 2012.

But much like coastal communities, salt marshes face increasing stress due to the impacts of sea-level rise and human development.

This spring the New Jersey Chapter of TNC rolled out a new mapping tool to help practitioners and local stakeholders explore the potential need for restoration among Atlantic coast back-bay salt marshes. The Marsh Explorer can help practitioners focus planning efforts on areas where marsh edge erosion, interior drowning, and manmade impacts like linear mosquito ditching are highest, showing the need for restoration.

The Marsh Explorer visualizes areas of salt marsh that have eroded between 1977 and 2012, along with other factors that indicate potential need for restoration. (map: Little Egg Harbor, NJ)

In addition, the Marsh Explorer allows users to map the type and location of sediments near federal navigational channels. This information can be used by state resource managers, and local communities that are interested in beneficially using dredged material to help make salt marshes more resilient to present and future impacts. By combining salt marsh restoration projects with ongoing maintenance dredging of boat channels, practitioners can potentially reduce costs, leverage additional funding, and keep sediment within the system.