Old Harbor Restoration
Project lead: Mike Riccio (MS 2011)
Salt marsh and eelgrass habitats provide important ecological services such as filtering water, increasing nutrient cycling, providing habitats, and improving the trophic structure. These ecosystems and their services are typically overlooked in urban settings or are impaired due to coastal development. We propose to restore these habitats on an approximately two-acre site on Old Harbor at the University of Massachusetts Boston (UMass Boston).
Goals of the project include minimizing erosion, mitigating degraded coastal ecosystems in Boston Harbor, developing a protocol for biomimicry-based habitat restoration, repopulating native shellfish, and restoring connectivity between salt marsh and eelgrass habitats. The project will have positive environmental impacts by reopening the hydraulic connection between the salt marsh/pond/channel and ocean, thus providing diurnal flushing, as well as by establishing natural buffers with mudflats, eelgrass, and salt marsh vegetation. Additionally, restoring eelgrass beds and oyster reefs will help to stabilize sediment, and increase biodiversity. We are using the biomimicry-based habitat restoration approach to contribute to adaptation and mitigation responses to global climate change, sea level rise, and water inundation.
Presently this area—between an old wastewater pump house and Old Harbor—experiences severe erosion and subsidence. As part of the Boston HarborWalk, this area presents a danger for pedestrians. We propose that this particular section of the HarborWalk be supported by a raised wooden walkway, weaving around the restored salt marsh. This site would become the first “living lab” on campus, allowing students, community members, and researchers to have hands-on experiences in these ecosystems; this would include conducting short-term research and long-term monitoring on the re-establishment of salt marsh and eelgrass habitats, their associated communities, and related environmental parameters. This project’s vision of biomimicry-based habitat restoration is one example of learning how to solve our current environmental issues by ensuring that human systems function more like the natural world.