Narrow River Organization Seeking Volunteers For Salt Marsh Planting

May 16, 2017

An organization working to preserve the Narrow River in South County is seeking volunteers to restore the river's salt marshes that are disappearing due to climate change.

Salt marshes are coastal wetlands that serve as an important habitat for fish, birds and other species. They're disappearing fast in Rhode Island because rising sea levels are causing salt marshes to flood too often. 

"We’re seeing basically areas of low and high marsh actually converted to more of a barren, just kind of mud flat. There's too much water being up on the marsh for the plants to survive," Ben Gaspar, leader of the restoration effort and scientist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said.

Gaspar said other salt marsh plants have begun migrating inland to escape flooding, but some of the salt marshes along Narrow River can't do that.   

"In some of these (salt marshes), the upland edge is actually a steep incline, so the marsh isn’t going to be able to move in over time, and so we’re worried about catastrophic loss as the marsh tries to retreat a little bit," Gaspar said. 

The Narrow River Preservation Association will be recruiting volunteers throughout May and early June to plant 35,000 salt marsh seedlings that will eventually provide protection to the delicate ecosystem.

This is the newest phase of a multiyear project to elevate and restore the river's salt marshes.

This winter, the association, in collaboration with other organizations, elevated the river's salt marshes by taking sand from the river bed and placing it on top of the marshes.