Mass Audubon’s approach to Coastal Resilience uses climate adaptation and nature-based climate solutions to focus on the protection, management, and restoration of four coastal priority habitats. These habitats include salt marshes, bird breeding islands, beaches, and coastal uplands.
Our goal is to help these habitats cope with, respond to, and prepare for current and future climate change impacts in order to preserve these environments and ecosystem services for both wildlife and people.
This is an interdisciplinary effort to conserve new land, manage and restore our coastal properties, assist partners in coastal restoration efforts on non-Mass Audubon land, and create outreach initiatives to communicate our efforts and educate the public on the necessity of coastal resiliency.
Priority Coastal Habitats
Salt marshes are coastal wetlands that are flooded and drained by salt water that is brought in with the tides. Due to sea level rise, many Massachusetts salt marshes are drowning in place, which is leading to the loss of essential functions (flood abatement, storm protection, etc.) and release of stored carbon.
Through climate adaptation and restoration techniques, Mass Audubon is enhancing resiliency of salt marshes to maintain their invaluable ecosystem services such as carbon sequestration and coastline protection (ex. Allens Pond Wildlife Sanctuary).
Coastal uplands (grasslands, shrublands, forests, and pine barrens) surround marine environments such as salt marshes and beaches and serve as important coastal habitat migration zones. Strategies Mass Audubon are implementing such as cranberry bog restoration (ex. Tidmarsh Wildlife Sanctuary) and invasive species control help promote habitat connectivity and coastal habitat migration.
Bird Breeding Islands, Massachusetts Bay
Bird Breeding Islands are small, often rocky, coastal islands that serve as important nesting habitats for migratory birds. For example, Kettle Island Wildlife Sanctuary is the single most important wading bird breeding site in Massachusetts. Our work is improving conditions to support nesting and migratory birds by addressing threats including human disturbance, mammalian predation/disturbance, and habitat change.
Barrier beaches serve a valuable role in coastal protection by absorbing wave energy and preventing flooding that impacts coastal communities and ecosystems. Mass Audubon’s Coastal Waterbird Program has been protecting and managing barrier beaches since 1986. With additional support from the Coastal Resilience Program, Mass Audubon will continue to protect this habitat through beach renourishment projects and coastal shorebird management to allow these birds species to persist and adapt to climate change impacts.
Coastal Resilience Centers
Coastal Resilience Centers (CRCs) showcase the coastal resiliency work of their perspective regions (North Shore, South East, Cape Cod, and Islands). Their purpose is to:
- Educate visitors, community leaders, and policy makers about the climate threats to our coasts and communicate Mass Audubon coastal resiliency efforts.
- Act as living laboratories where new restoration and protection techniques are applied, tested, and analyzed.
- Promote policies and regulatory reforms that expand the application of on-the-ground coastal restoration and management techniques.
- Create opportunities for partners to discuss the latest coastal resilience science and policy.
- Inspire a “Call to Action” to encourage community members to get involved by providing resources and opportunities for engagement.
CRCs are located at:
- Joppa Flats Education Center, Newburyport, MA
- Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, Wellfleet, MA
- Tidmarsh Wildlife Sanctuary, Plymouth, MA
- Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary, Edgartown, MA
Current Coastal Resilience Projects
Salt Marsh Restoration in the South East Funded by Southeast New England Program (SNEP) Watershed Grants
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Southeast New England Program (SNEP) selected Allens Pond Wildlife Sanctuary in Westport and Dartmouth and Great Neck Wildlife Sanctuary in Wareham among its 2020 Watershed Grant recipients. SNEP works in partnership with stakeholders including Mass Audubon "to promote resilient ecosystems of clean water, healthy diverse habitats, and sustainable communities in Southeast New England."
Allens Pond and Great Neck have been awarded $150,000 to restore saltmarsh habitat and to enhance climate change resilience. This project focuses on creating pathways for salt marsh migration, removing invasive species, and implementing climate adaptation actions to restore degraded salt marsh habitat. The grant also includes education and community-outreach elements, with the goal of engaging residents, municipal leaders, and environmental agencies.
To prepare both sanctuaries to more robustly adapt to climate impacts, including rising ocean waters and more frequent storms, Mass Audubon staff, volunteers, and partners are:
- Removing specific infrastructure that acts as barriers to salt marsh migration including stone walls at Allens Pond and a squash court complex at Great Neck.
- Removing invasive species and planting native species at Great Neck and at the Darthmouth Natural Resources Trust’s Ocean View Farm Reserve (neighboring Allens Pond Wildlife Sanctuary) in effort to help facilitate wildlife and habitat movement landward as a response to sea level rise and act as a wetland buffer (an area with plants that helps protect the wetland and all its climate services).
- Implementing salt marsh climate adaptation techniques that will help alleviate flooding stress and promote vegetation growth on the marsh at Allens Pond in partnership with Save the Bay and Bristol County Mosquito Control.
In addition to SNEP, partners for this project include the Dartmouth Natural Resources Trust, Save The Bay, Bristol County Mosquito Control, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Town of Wareham, and the Wareham Land Trust.
Cranberry Bog Restoration at Tidmarsh Wildlife Sanctuary, Plymouth
The largest freshwater ecological restoration ever attempted in the Northeast, Tidmarsh Wildlife Sanctuary is creating a mosaic of habitats including ponds, cold-water streams, red maple and Atlantic white cedar swamps, grasslands, and pine-oak forest.
Nine dams have been removed, over three miles of new stream channel have been excavated, and thousands of tons of sediment have been removed to connect headwaters of Beaver Dam Brook with the ocean for migrating fish such as river herring, brook trout, and American eel.
The Tidmarsh team also worked on the removal of non-native species, like Common Reed (Phragmites australis) and Common Barberry (Berberis vulgaris, from the sanctuary’s wetlands and meadows. Additionally, new native plants have been incorporated in former farm gravel pits to encourage restoration of native sand plain communities, which are a globally rare ecosystem.
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.
Peek at the Story Map: Saving Our Coastlines, Habitats, and Neighborhoods
If you would like to learn more or are interested in partnering with Mass Audubon on our coastal resilience work, please email us.