Ring Island Salt Marsh Restoration
Project Summary: The Ring Island Salt Marsh Restoration project is one of three salt marsh restoration projects in southern New Jersey being funded by a National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Hurricane Sandy grant Avalon and Fortescue are the other two project sites. The intent of these restoration projects is two-fold—to restore and enhance the chosen salt marshes and to investigate the utility and effectiveness beneficially reusing dredged material to restore salt marshes and stabilize shorelines.
Ring Island is a salt marsh island in Middle Township, NJ and is part of the Cape May Coastal Wetlands Wildlife Management Area. This salt marsh island is suffering from subsidence, or marsh drowning, as evidenced by the prevalence of low vigor vegetation and salt pannes. The marsh is not keeping up with current rates of sea level rise and plant communities are exposed to an increased depth and duration of flooding. The salt stress associated with the latter has resulted in stunted vegetation with sparse coverage. Without a boost to the marsh’s elevation, plant communities will eventually succumb to the increased stress leaving barren unprotected marsh that will disappear under a rising sea. The goal of this restoration project was to arrest the subsidence-based marsh loss at the project site by increasing marsh platform elevation through the application of a thin layer of dredged material pulled from the NJ Intracoastal Waterway (NJIWW). Additionally, the project site and the nature of the available sediments presented the opportunity to build valuable shorebird habitat. The dredged sediments were used to create open sandy habitat above the mean high-water line for endangered shorebirds to safely nest without danger of having their nest flooded.
Upon completion of construction, the project team had restored ~3 acres of degraded salt marsh through the placement of ~7,000 cubic yards of dredged sediments from the NJIWW. An as-built survey was performed immediately after placement in September 2014. This was followed by more detailed surveys in November 2015 and February 2016. The thin layer placement sites have been slow to revegetate through the sand and were planted in spring 2016. The shorebird habitat has had great success attracting and support mating pairs of the state-endangered Oystercatcher. Every nest built in the 2015 nesting season had a chick successfully fledge and the same mating pairs returned to the site for the 2016 season.