Hampton’s salt marshes buffer against storm surge, reduce erosion, fortify upland property, improve water quality, create habitat for fish and wildlife. Unfortunately, as the rate of local sea level rise accelerates, marshes that can’t keep pace will be lost. One strategy for sustaining marshes is to protect adjacent land so that they can expand inland as seas rise.
However, permanently conserving natural buffer areas can be expensive, so it is strategic to invest in those around marshes that are more likely to adapt and persist over time. In an effort to protect local marshes for the future, the Seabrook Hampton Estuary Alliance worked with the Great Bay Reserve to use the New Hampshire Salt Marsh Plan to prioritize parcels for conservation in a data driven and easy to explain process.
“In the context of changing sea levels and precipitation patterns, understanding a marsh’s ability to sustain itself relative to the larger landscape can help us preserve it and the benefits it provides,” says Lynn Vacarro, Coastal Training Program Coordinator for the Reserve. “That’s where the Plan comes in; it’s a tool to help us all decide how best to apply finite resources for conservation and restoration.”
The partners used the Plan’s Management Options Table and Marsh Profiles tool to prioritize parcels for conservation in and around Hampton marshes with high or moderate resilience scores. These would be most likely to persist, migrate inland, continue to support fish and wildlife, and provide the biggest return on investment. With a shorter list of priority parcels, the Alliance has been able to help towns approach landowners and seek funding for land conservation.
Municipalities and others interested in putting the Plan to work for their community should contact the Great Bay Reserve (add contact here).