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Reviewed by:
  • Tidal Marsh Restoration: A Synthesis of Science and Management ed. by Charles T Roman and David M Burdick
  • John Teal (bio)
Tidal Marsh Restoration: A Synthesis of Science and Management Charles T Roman and David M Burdick, Editors Island Press, 2000 M Street NW, Suite 650, Washington, DC 20036; 2012, Cloth US$ 100 (ISBN 978-1-597265751), paperback US$ 50.00 (ISBN 978-1-597265768), 7 × 10, 53 figures, 24 tables, references, index, 432 p.

This volume is written by scientists, consultants, managers, and engineers who know a lot about salt marshes. As the Island Press announcement says, the volume is written for managers, planners, regulators, consultants, and others engaged in restoring tidally restricted and diked salt marshes. Sections on restoration science, restoration practice (with examples from New England and the Maritime provinces), connecting science and practice, and connecting practice with social concerns are covered. The chapters are well written with good references to current literature. I was especially taken by the final summary chapter with emphasis on how our salt marsh preservation and restoration efforts will affect society. Their final 2 sentences give us a warning and direction: “Managers and planners should focus on the roles of natural hydrology and coastal processes as the fundamental mechanisms to initiate change along a trajectory toward a restored condition. By establishing the natural processes needed to maintain salt marsh, most practitioners have found that the marsh will self-organize or develop on its own, with minimal active management.”

I would like to have seen more emphasis on self-design (ecological engineering) throughout the volume to support the final statement. Nonetheless, a good discussion covers all the engineering planning and details that are necessary, especially when conditions (social, environmental, existing structures) reduce the extent to which self-design can be allowed.

A few things stood out that I especially liked. An excellent chapter explores hydrological modeling, which is useful in almost any restoration and is essential in large ones. Because of the small elevation changes in salt marshes, detailed surveys are needed to understand the hydrology in the system. One cannot use just a tide gage at the marsh entrance to predict how high the tide will be within all parts of the marsh. Another chapter discusses the invasive form of Phragmites, which requires control in many restoration projects, and this chapter makes it clear that the process may take years. The chapter on innovative engineering emphasizes the importance of cross-disciplinary ideas—talking among engineers and ecologists, and I would add, social scientists.

The chapter on tidal marsh restoration on Cape Cod gives an exceptional account of the hydrological, ecological, and social problems in marsh restoration. It demonstrates the importance of planning, modeling, understanding restoration goals in detail, and informing the public of the consequences of proposed restorations. A similar comment can be made about the [End Page 118] chapter that follows on the Drakes Island restoration in Maine. There the importance of the interactions between the restorers and the public that started years before any construction began and lasted for several years after construction is documented. The authors show that conscientious public outreach does not ensure public approval. This dilemma will become even more difficult as the rate of sea level rise increases.

These short summaries show the extent to which humans, with their desire to live close to the shore, have messed up our tidal marshes. Our regulatory and societal processes have also made it much more difficult to plan and manage restorations. Compare the simplicity of marsh development (that is, evolution) 500 years ago with nature supplying the sediments, the water, the channels, and all of the plants with the enormous amount of effort detailed in the chapter on the Galilee Bird Sanctuary restoration in Connecticut. Urban restorations face even greater difficulties as illustrated in the chapter on the Rumney marsh in the metropolitan Boston area. In such cases, never-ending maintenance is necessary and restoration is usually only marginally successful.

The volume is an outstanding summary of what we have learned about salt marsh restoration in New England and the Maritimes, but the results and conclusions also apply to coastal wetland restoration throughout the world. It...


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