URI biologist to monitor salt marshes in national parks

December 06, 2002

URI Graduate School of Oceanography biologist Mary-Jane James-Pirri has received a $221,000 grant from the National Park Service to implement a program to monitor vegetation and free-swimming fish and decapod crustaceans (nekton) at several park units throughout the coastal northeast.

James-Pirri will select the study sites where salt marsh vegetation and nekton communities will be monitored within each park based on a review of aerial photography, field visits, and interviews with park staff. In order to detect long-term ecosystem changes, sites will be selected that are relatively undisturbed. In addition, one or two more locations within each park may be monitored that are of particular interest to park resource managers. For example, if a marsh has undergone restoration activities, such as the installation of a culvert, or is experiencing some other change or disturbance, James-Pirri may monitor that location in addition to the undisturbed marsh to track the progress or decline of the disturbed marsh.

"Salt marshes are sensitive to natural and human-induced disturbances, such as nutrient enrichment, watershed development, tidal alteration, ditching, storms, sea level rise, oil spills, and climate change," said James-Pirri. "Long-term monitoring of vegetation and nekton will allow for the detection of ecosystem changes and enable resource managers to anticipate detrimental changes and design management strategies."

The parks where salt marsh vegetation and nekton communities will be monitored are Assateague Island National Seashore (Maryland and Virginia), Colonial National Historic Park (Virginia), Fire Island National Seashore (New York), Gateway National Recreation Area (New York and New Jersey), George Washington Birthplace National Monument (Virginia), Sagamore Hill National Historic Site (New York), Thomas Stone National Historic Site (Maryland), Acadia National Park (Maine), and Boston Harbor Island National Park Area (Massachusetts).
The URI Graduate School of Oceanography is one of the country's largest marine science education programs, and one of the world's foremost marine research institutions. Founded in 1961 in Narragansett, RI, GSO serves a community of scientists who are researching the causes of and solutions to such problems as acid rain, harmful algal blooms, global warming, air and water pollution, oil spills, overfishing, and coastal erosion. GSO is home to the Coastal Institute, the Coastal Resources Center, Rhode Island Sea Grant, the Institute for Archaeological Oceanography, and the National Sea Grant Library.

University of Rhode Island

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