Research and Monitoring
One of the core functions of the Narragansett Bay Research Reserve is to support and conduct high quality research and monitoring with a focus on the Reserve’s mission to preserve and protect representative estuarine habitats within Narragansett Bay. This is facilitated by a coordinated Research and Monitoring Program, which is staffed by a Research Coordinator, a Marine Research Specialist II, and a seasonal research technician. The NBNERR Research program seeks to develop and enhance cooperative partnerships and to integrate with other Reserve programs to conduct and disseminate original research in the Reserve throughout coastal Rhode Island. In addition, the Reserve serves as a long-term platform for external scientific research that spans a variety of disciplines. Examples of projects conducted by visiting scientists can be found here
Currently, the NBNERR Research and Monitoring program focuses on:
1) ecology of salt marshes in the context of climate change and sea level rise,
2) implementing the System-wide Monitoring Program which includes long-term monitoring of water quality, nutrients and weather, and
3) supporting visiting researchers to the Reserve. More broadly, research and monitoring in the Reserve is guided by a set of vetted research priorities.
Biographies of Reserve research staff can be found here.
A National Synthesis of Tidal Marshes to Detect Impacts of Climate Change across Multiple Scales
Tidal marshes are facing tremendous pressures from climate change, including accelerated rates of sea-level-rise, increased storm activity and precipitation extremes, lengthened growing seasons and shifts in salinity regimes. Recent research within National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR) sites has revealed striking changes in plant communities that seem to be caused by rising seas, including shifts toward more flood tolerant species, lower overall plant diversity, and in some cases growing swaths of bare ground. This project will leverage the Reserve System’s geographic diversity, nationally coordinated monitoring program, communication networks, and strong record of collaborative research to conduct a groundbreaking national study examining how marsh plant communities are responding to climate change. Learn more
Thin-Layer Sediment Placement: Evaluating an Adaptation Strategy to Enhance Coastal Marsh Resilience
Tidal marshes provide key ecosystem services, but are threatened by sea level rise. For these ecosystems to survive, it will require active management to increase tidal marsh resilience. Researchers at the Narragansett Bay and Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserves recently led the first national assessment of tidal marsh resilience to sea level rise to monitor coastal reserve sites across the continental United States. In this project, the group took the next step to test a strategy that can enhance tidal marsh resilience. Thin-layer placement (TLP) is an emerging climate adaptation strategy that mimics natural deposition processes in tidal marshes by adding a small amount of sediment on top of marsh in order to maintain elevation relative to sea level rise. It is one of the only viable strategies to protect tidal marshes in their current footprint. Learn more