Evaluation of Narragansett Bay Marshes

To assess the relative health of the Bay’s remaining salt marshes, Save The Bay developed the “Narragansett Bay Method” adapted from a number of national wetland assessment techniques, specifically the New Hampshire Audubon’s “Coastal Method”. This salt marsh assessment was designed to quantitatively and qualitatively characterize the health and ecological integrity of salt marshes. In 1996, over 90 volunteers were trained to conduct these salt marsh evaluations throughout Narragansett Bay. Using the Narragansett Bay Method, they identified the extent to which the Bay’s salt marshes have been impacted by human activities such as filling and restriction of tidal flow.

Results of Save The Bay’s Salt Marsh Assessment
Narragansett Bay’s salt marshes have been severely impacted. Seventy percent of the Narragansett Bay’s remaining salt marshes are impacted by restrictions to the daily ebb and flow of tides, reducing their ability to support Bay fisheries. Over 60 percent of the salt marshes show signs of dumping or filling. Furthermore, mosquito ditches drain over 50 percent of the marshes. About 1,200 of the 3,700 remaining acres of Bay salt marshes are impacted by invasive plant species such as the common reed, Phragmites. Nearly 30 percent of our remaining salt marshes have inadequate or no adjacent undeveloped buffer zone, and thus no protection from polluted runoff from lawns, golf courses and parking lots. Finally, about 58 percent of marshes suffer from the polluted runoff discharges.

Public Education Efforts

Save The Bay has developed two guidebooks that target both small and large coastal property owners, Backyards on the Bay– A Yard Care Guide for the Coastal Home Owner and the Coastal Property and Landscape Management Guidebook.

Backyards on the Bay – A Yard Care Guide for the Coastal Home Owner  (only available online) provides coastal home owners with the necessary tools to reduce their yard’s impact on Narragansett Bay’s salt marshes, improve water quality and create an aesthetically pleasing backyard on the Bay. The guide includes simple “Bay friendly” landscaping tips home owners can adopt from fertilizing and watering practices to erosion and stormwater control. Backyards on the Bay also includes a step by step guide on how to plant a buffer of native shrubs and list of native shrubs, trees and perennials that are suitable for coastal areas. .

Coastal Property and Landscape Management Guidebook is a guide for owners of large parcels of coastal property such as golf courses, parks and land trusts. This guide focuses on the benefits, both financial and ecological, of environmentally responsible landscape management. It outlines simple steps coastal property owners can take to reduce the time, effort and money maintaining their shoreline property – while at the same time protecting and restoring Narragansett Bay coastal habitats. To request a copy of this guide, contact Wenley Ferguson at wferguson@savebay.org.