EGU General Assembly 2021
© Author(s) 2021. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge Marsh Restoration & Shoreline Resilience Project – A Carbon Sequestration Case Study in the Coastal Zone 

Aspen Tabar1, Susan Guiteras2, and Jeff Tabar3
Aspen Tabar et al.
  • 1A Generation of Change, Climate Adaptation, United States of America (
  • 2United States Fish & Wildlife Service
  • 3Stantec - Coastal Solutions Practice

Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge and its adjacent water bodies are important natural features along western Delaware Bay, USA. Historically salt and brackish marsh habitats, portions of the Refuge were diked and managed as freshwater impoundments starting in the early 1980s. Over the past decade, some of these impoundments have reverted to saline conditions, largely due to several storm events (including Hurricane Sandy in 2012) that have caused flooding, erosion, and opened several breaches between the Refuge and Delaware Bay. Because of these significant morphologic changes, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) completed a series of surveys, numerical modeling using Delft3D and coastal engineering analyses to aid in developing restoration alternatives for managing the Refuge and its marshlands. This work will review the results of the strategic planning used to recommend a preferred restoration alternative for managing the Refuge under the new environmental regime aimed at resilience. As a result of this effort, a project for restoring and managing the Refuge was recommended and constructed in 2018. Total cost of the project was $40 million US and was the largest restoration/recovery project authorized to address the impacts of Hurricane Sandy.

The project included two major components: 1) shoreline reconstruction and 2) marsh restoration.  The shoreline reconstruction portion of the project included placing approximately 1.2 million cubic meters of sand from an offshore borrow area along the shoreline to reconstruction a 12 m wide dune, 45 m beach berm and 30 m back-bay marsh platform (essentially rebuilding the entire barrier island). In addition, the project included a major marsh restoration effort including dredging 48 km of conveyance channels and “thin layer” disposal of 460,000 cubic meters of sediment to create 2,000 hectares of salt marsh.

Herein will present findings from an analysis using monitoring data and observations to evaluate converting freshwater wetlands to saltwater marshes and the resulting increase in carbon sequestration. As tidal marshes are restored, harmful emissions decline as the project site transforms from a freshwater to a saltwater environment. Therefore, carbon is stored in the soils more readily under tidal marsh conditions. The findings will show the increase in carbon sequestration as a result of the vegetation community response and discuss future projections.  Methodologies used for identifying vegetation community response included:

  • Salt Marsh Integrity (SMI) and Saltmarsh Habitat & Avian Research Program (SHARP)
  • Mid-Atlantic Tidal Rapid Assessment Method (MidTRAM)
  • Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI)

This work will show the importance of incorporating coastal restoration projects and carbon sequestration into policies and management in the coastal zone.

How to cite: Tabar, A., Guiteras, S., and Tabar, J.: Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge Marsh Restoration & Shoreline Resilience Project – A Carbon Sequestration Case Study in the Coastal Zone , EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-7944,, 2021.

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