(Norwalk, CT) – Wetlands are among the most productive ecosystems on the planet supporting a rich biodiversity, yet they are declining at alarming rates. On World Wetlands Day, The Maritime Aquarium celebrates the critical role that wetlands play in Long Island Sound and is proud to highlight its conservation work that aims to increase the resiliency of the Sound’s marshes.
“It is critical that we act as good stewards of our marshes,” said The Maritime Aquarium Director of Conservation and Policy Dr. Sarah Crosby. “At The Maritime Aquarium, our research and restoration efforts are forward thinking and center climate change as we work to protect these habitats. If we make smart investments in restoration now, the positive impacts will be felt for generations to come.”
Marshes act as a filter and barrier between people and the sea. They protect coastal communities from storm damage, remove nutrients and pollutants from runoff, and store high levels of carbon below ground. When marshes are destroyed, their adjacent communities are at higher risk for erosion and storm impacts, which is why the work to protect them is so pressing.
Dr. Crosby is a marine ecologist trained in conservation science with extensive experience in coastal and marine ecosystems. Her upcoming research this summer, with a collaborative team of academic and NGO scientists, will examine the effects of restoring salt marshes with locally sourced marsh grass against the same species of marsh grass sourced from further south, where it is acclimated to higher temperatures. If the southern marsh grass thrives in the area, it could better prepare local marshes for increased temperatures caused by climate change, making the marshes less likely to drown and maximizing the impact of restoration projects in the future.
Another project led by The Maritime Aquarium in partnership with the City of Norwalk and the Norwalk River Watershed Association, is examining the feasibility of creating a “living shoreline” at Veterans Memorial Park. Living shorelines are restoration techniques that use native plants to protect and stabilize the shoreline. Installing a living shoreline would increase the resilience of the park’s water front while also improving water quality and habitat value of the surrounding area. The Norwalk Land Trust and neighborhood groups are already working on similar projects in the area.
Currently, the aquarium has over $1.2 million in grant funding to support its conservation research. Of that, nearly $600,000 is specifically dedicated to wetlands related research.