Published on September 23, 2020

New Restoration Work Underway at Tidmarsh

Ecological restoration is the process of assisting the recovery of an ecosystem that has been degraded, damaged, or destroyed. — Society for Ecological Restoration's Primer, 2004

Aerial view of Tidmarsh Wildlife Sanctuary in 2018

Tidmarsh Wildlife Sanctuary and the Town of Plymouth's Foothills Preserve are comprised of 600+ acres of contiguous conservation land in Plymouth. This land was home to the former Tidmarsh Farms commercial cranberry farm. Beginning in 2015, an extensive restoration began on the property that eventually became Tidmarsh Wildlife Sanctuary. This restoration removed 9 water control structures and dams and created 3.5 miles of stream channel.

The land now provides a resilient landscape that's home to over 600 species of plants, 200 species of birds, over 45 species of butterflies, more than 25 species of dragonflies and damselflies, and 15 species of reptiles and amphibians.

Much was learned from this restoration project and from other restorations across the state that followed.

Progress in re-establishing a free-flowing West Beaver Dam Brook

Current Project

Over the past 3 years, Mass Audubon has worked with the Town of Plymouth, the Massachusetts Division of Ecological Restoration, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Ducks Unlimited, and Living Observatory—as well as partnering academic institutions—to make plans for further restoration work of the area.

This next phase of restoration includes the Foothills Preserve, which is owned by the town with a Conservation Restriction (CR) held by Mass Audubon, as well as the West Branch of Beaver Dam Brook that crosses Tidmarsh's entrance trail.

We broke ground on this exciting project in mid-May 2020. This restoration project will provide cold water stream habitat to many species of birds, fish, plants, butterflies, and other species. The removal of several small dams will reconnect West Beaver Dam Brook to its headwaters at the town-owned Foothills Preserve, thereby reestablishing a free-flowing stream from headwaters to the ocean. Efforts to restore stream connectivity like this help increase overall climate resiliency while restoring vulnerable cold-water steam habitats to allow migratory aquatic organisms to move freely.

The small dams and associated warm impoundents were originally constructed in the 1980s to control water levels and support cranberry agricultural operations. By removing barriers and restoring stream channels and floodplain, we hope to witness the rebirth of a healthy, natural stream. We are excited to see the changes that will take place at both Foothills Preserve and at Tidmarsh in the coming months and in the years that follow.

→ While we do not have an official date of completion for this project, you can follow us on Facebook and Instagram for progress updates.

Planting sandplain plant species at Tidmarsh Wildlife Sanctuary

Habitat Improvements at the Sanctuary

Mass Audubon is committed to restoring, enhancing, and improving the ecosystem and natural landscape at Tidmarsh Wildlife Sanctuary to provide quality habitat for vulnerable species.

In the fall of 2019, we added 430 new native plants in the former farm gravel pits to encourage restoration of native sand plain communities, which are a globally rare ecosystem. These plants have now made it through their first winter, and we're working to facilitate additional restoration in these crucial uplands on the property.

Plans for this year include incorporating additional native plants in these areas. We've contracted with the Living Observatory to grow these plants for the sanctuary using native local ecotypes. While these plants do take a few years to fully establish, in time they will provide a healthy and diverse ecosystem for many species.

In addition to planting native species, the Tidmarsh team has also worked to remove non-native invasive species to allow our native plants to establish. This has included removal of Common Reed (Phragmites australis) and Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) from our wetlands, and Common Barberry (Berberis vulgaris) from our meadows.

Native aster species being visited by a native bee at Tidmarsh Wildlife Sanctuary

We're committed to mitigating invasive species on the sanctuary because they displace, kill, and replace critical native species in the landscape. Native species are valuable to wildlife, and the life cycles of some native pollinators depend entirely on specific native plant species. Native plants also provide increased resilience in the face of climate change.

Tidmarsh also has plans for creating a pollinator garden and native plant learning garden, with construction tentatively scheduled for the spring of 2021.

It Takes Many Hands

This work is made possible thanks to our wonderful partner organizations and the generous support of our donors.

Please consider supporting Tidmarsh as we look to increase wildlife habitat, plant native plants, and increase climate resilience—all while improving and maintaining trails and educational opportunities at this truly unique landscape.