Hydrologic modeling as a predictive basis for ecological restoration of salt marshes

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Roads, bridges, causeways, impoundments, and dikes in the coastal zone often restrict tidal flow to salt marsh ecosystems. A dike with tide control structures, located at the mouth of the Herring River salt marsh estuarine system (Wellfleet, Massachusetts) since 1908, has effectively restricted tidal exchange, causing changes in marsh vegetation composition, degraded water quality, and reduced abundance of fish and macroinvertebrate communities. Restoration of this estuary by reintroduction of tidal exchange is a feasible management alternative. However, restoration efforts must proceed with caution as residential dwellings and a golf course are located immediately adjacent to and in places within the tidal wetland. A numerical model was developed to predict tide height levels for numerous alternative openings through the Herring River dike. Given these model predictions and knowledge of elevations of flood-prone areas, it becomes possible to make responsible decisions regarding restoration. Moreover, tidal flooding elevations relative to the wetland surface must be known to predict optimum conditions for ecological recovery. The tide height model has a universal role, as demonstrated by successful application at a nearby salt marsh restoration site in Provincetown, Massachusetts. Salt marsh restoration is a valuable management tool toward maintaining and enhancing coastal zone habitat diversity. The tide height model presented in this paper will enable both scientists and resource professionals to assign a degree of predictability when designing salt marsh restoration programs. © 1995 Springer-Verlag New York Inc.

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Environmental Management