Clean Coasts is a program currently focused on the restoration of critical salt marsh habitat along the Northumberland Strait. Coastal restoration is important for mitigating and adapting to our changing climate, especially in Nova Scotia.
Currently, we are working towards restoring salt marsh habitat with funding from Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO). Over a five year period, we will work with our valued partners to achieve our overarching mission to identify, restore and monitor salt marsh habitat and empower local communities to steward the areas they call home.
Why salt marshes?
Salt marshes exist where fresh water and saltwater meet. They store carbon, filter water, buffer against storm events, stabilize the coast and are home to many species of plants, fish, and wildlife.
Despite this, salt marshes are some of the most threatened ecosystems on earth. Declines in salt marshes, historically seen as wastelands, are now mainly caused by development, infrastructure and agriculture. In the Maritimes, it is estimated that we have lost 64% of our coastal wetlands.
Coastal ecosystems, including salt marshes, are especially sensitive to climate change. They are highly impacted by sea level rise, especially where their inland movement has been restricted by development.
Our Approach to Restoration
In order to understand the complex geographical and ecological systems the Clean Coasts team was working in, they began a journey of learning through both eyes (etuaptamunk). With their access to western knowledge, they began both historical and present-day technical research into the physical attributes of the land. Through community engagement and the collection of traditional ecological knowledge they were gifted further understanding of the past and current impacts of the land on the peoples who live and rely on it.
Community Engagement and Traditional Ecological Knowledge
We engage with the local and Mi’kmaq communities to gather local and traditional knowledge that guide the prioritization and selection of restoration sites and map knowledge of historic, contemporary and degraded tidal wetland sites.
Our engagement is guided by ethical principles and best practice standards that uphold communities’ rights to traditional knowledge and foster communities’ sense of ownership of the restoration project happening in these important ecosystems in their own backyard.
Technical Data Collection and Monitoring
To characterize the overall health of salt marshes and choose sites to restore, the project team focused its research on tidal barriers and their impact on salt marshes in the Northumberland Strait. Tidal barriers are roads or dykes that pass over salt marsh habitat and alter the normal hydrology of a site. Desktop research and geospatial analysis was initially used to locate impacted areas that showed evidence of previous salt marsh existence. In depth analysis was done at select sites using a rapid barrier assessment designed to help characterize the barriers, measure the hydrology, look at the fish and plant species present to determine how saltwater influence has changed due to the barrier.
Through this analysis, our team chose sites to restore and the data from the other sites will be kept and organized and shared publicly to help inform future restoration work.
Chosen Restoration Locations
Ferguson’s Cove. The purpose of this project is to restore the drainage in and facilitate the growth of plants in a salt marsh that is currently impounded. An old dyke has caused a section of a salt marsh in Fergusons Cove to hold water on the marsh surface, causing it to ultimately drown and the vegetation to die. To restore this marsh, our team intends to use runnels to restore proper drainage and allow for the revegetation of the marsh surface. Runnels are narrow, shallow channels dug into the ground that allow impounded surface water to drain.
Sitmu’k – The project team is working with the PLFN community to make restoration plans for Sitmu’k (Moodie Cove/Lighthouse Beach area) that serve to enhance the remaining marsh in the cove. Our goal for our work is based on the concept that a more resilient salt marsh will create additional habitat for important species and act as a natural shoreline buffer to storm surges and sea level rise.
Keeping Track of the Results
Working with our project partners and local communities we will conduct monitoring before, during and after restoration.
By working with the Coastal and Ocean Information Network Atlantic (COIN Atlantic), we will produce an online repository that will include data collected throughout the project to be accessible to the public that will build capacity and foster a sense of stewardship for the sites restored once the life of the project is complete.
Sharing our knowledge
Critical to the ongoing health of Nova Scotia’s tidal wetlands is increased citizen commitment to protecting and restoring this vital habitat. This requires engagement, training, and skill development within local communities. We will share data, stories and knowledge with the goal to be a resource and training model for Mi’kmaq communities, local organizations, and all levels of government.
We are working with the Coastal and Ocean Information Network (COIN) to produce an online repository of current and future sites of interest. The “atlas” will include data collected throughout the project and will be accessible to the public and all project partners. We will build capacity and foster a sense of stewardship well beyond the life of the project.
We host training workshops to community groups, academics, researchers, different levels of government to introduce the concept of salt marsh ecology and the benefits of coastal restoration. Through the lens of our project, these workshops provide knowledge and real-life examples of coastal restoration work being conducted in Nova Scotia and throughout North America. More information about our upcoming workshops this March is coming soon.
Stay tuned for our immersive 360 experience for anyone wanting to visit our sites without having to leave your home!
Workshops and Resources
We host training workshops to community groups, academics, researchers, different levels of government to introduce the concept of salt marsh ecology and the benefits of coastal restoration. Through the lens of our project, these workshops provide knowledge and real-life examples of coastal restoration work being conducted in Nova Scotia and throughout North America.
For more information, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Restore salt marsh habitat along the Northumberland Strait
Collaborate with Mi’kmaq knowledge keepers and local communities
Monitor and steward habitat; listen and learn from partners; grow resilience in our communities
Inventory new areas for future restoration, and freely provide all data and information
Clean Foundation is grateful to be working with such diverse, talented and dedicated project partners in such an integrated and close way. Their expertise in Mi’kmaw engagement, salt marsh restoration, data management, virtual reality, and the hosting of volunteer events, enrich to our work. This project would not be possible without: