Green Harbors Project

at the University of Massachusetts Boston

Urban Harbor Salt Marsh Restoration

Project leader Timothy Maguire (M.S. 2012)

Development of a Salt Marsh Restoration Site Selection Method for Urban Harbors

My assertion is that current salt marsh restoration is focused on large tidal flow restoration projects.  Tidal flow restoration projects are generally projects where a physical barrier to the sea is removed changing the salinity of a freshwater embayment.  These projects are the primary means of restoration because they have a high “bang for the buck.”  These projects have a high return on investment in terms of monetary investment to acreage restored. 

In urban harbors the mainstream salt marsh restoration focus on tidal flow restoration is not a valid paradigm.  Urban harbors such as Boston cannot be truly “restored” to their original salt marsh as a majority of the current Boston coast line is artificial.  The anthropomorphic coast has been created by filling in bays, estuaries, and low lying areas that surrounded Boston’s original skinny peninsula.  Additionally, the current coast is mostly developed all the way to the upland edge of the intertidal systems which, eliminates the possibility of undeveloped freshwater systems existing that require reintegration with the sea.  I propose that while urban harbors do not fit into the normal assumptions of salt marsh restoration they are none the less important and deserving of revitalization.

Boston harbor pilons for salt marsh restoration

For my thesis research I:

·         Interviewed salt marsh restoration professionals to confirm that the “bang for the buck” paradigm asserted above is accurate

·         Identified possible sites for urban harbor salt marsh enhancement in Boston

·         Reviewed archival information on these possible sites and develop a comprehensive site model

·         Took physical measurements of publicly accessible sites for slope, salinity, pH, and current salt marsh coverage

Based on the results a proposed four step unique method was developed and discussed.