URI researcher receives park service grant to identify environmental threats to wetlands in the northeast park system
Urbanization throughout the northeastern United States is intense and rapidly growing, especially within the coastal zone from Maine to Virginia. Wetlands, both freshwater and saltwater, although often protected within park boundaries, are exposed to a suite of threats from external development activities and many have been influenced by such activities for centuries. In response to increasing urbanization, the ecological structure and function of wetlands can be altered, sometimes quite dramatically.
URI research associate Mary-Jane James-Pirri has been awarded a $46,000 two-year grant by the National Park Service to identify threats to specific wetlands in the eight Northeast Coastal and Barrier Network Parks and two parks on the immediate coast. This identification is crucial to establish the potential for alteration, and then to identify habitat restoration or other management scenarios aimed at protecting and maintaining or enhancing wetlands for the long-term.
The specific parks include Acadia National Park (Maine), Boston Harbor Islands (Massachusetts), Cape Cod National Seashore (Massachusetts), Fire Island National Seashore (New York) Sagamore Hill National Historic Site (New York), Gateway National Recreation Area (New York/New Jersey), Assateague Island National Seashore (Maryland/Virginia), Colonial National Historic Park (Virginia), Thomas Stone National Historic Site (Virginia), and the George Washington Birthplace (Virginia).
James-Pirri will conduct this project by visiting parks and making field assessments, aerial photographic assessments and compiling literature and data currently available in a variety of sources. The outcome of the project will be a comprehensive document on the wetlands and the issues connected with each. The document will include descriptions of each park; statistics; descriptions and discussions of threats to wetlands; historical trends in wetland;, descriptions of ongoing monitoring programs; water quality data; and specific recommendations on restoration, monitoring, management, and/or research alternatives.
"This project will provide a comprehensive compilation and synthesis of wetland and water quality issues facing these ten National Park units," said James- Pirri. "This will assist in the long-term management, restoration, and protection of these diverse ecological systems and will allow resource managers to make objective decisions for research prioritization and resource protection."
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, 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 Ocean Technology Center, and the National Sea Grant Library.