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NCCOS Project

Restoring our Nation’s Wetlands using MAPTITE: A Marsh Analysis and Planning Tool Incorporating Tides and Elevation

This project began in May 2007 and was completed in September 2011

We developed an ArcGIS-extension MAPTITE tool designed to help marsh planners maximize the success rate of vegetation restoration efforts. The tool identifies suitable locations for replenishing marsh plant species based on surface elevation, thereby improving their survival rate. For this effort, we were tasked with designing the user interface and writing the code for the software development.

Why We Care
Coastal wetlands play critical roles in the coastal zone by providing food and habitats, improving water quality, reducing erosion, and buffering the effects of extreme weather. In 2009, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reported a loss rate of intertidal emergent wetlands three times greater than the previous period’s loss rate (between 1998 and 2004). The vast acceleration created an urgent need for immediate protective actions to safeguard remaining wetlands and restore those that were lost or damaged.

What We Did
Effective restoration depends on the ability to maintain a suite of native plant communities distributed along the intertidal gradient based on their individual tolerance to flooding and salinity. Many coastal wetland plants are sensitive to changes in salinity and water levels. In tidal areas, a small change in elevation can strongly affect salinity and saturation levels, which will then alter the plant communities that can successfully colonize that habitat. Therefore, restoration efforts require judicious planning and a thorough knowledge of elevations, as well as careful selection of vegetation types appropriate for those elevations.

MAPTITE is an ArcGIS extension that we developed along with our partners to identify suitable locations for planting new marsh plants during coastal wetland restoration. MAPTITE produces datasets of planting zones on the elevation model for each grass species, overlap areas, and statistics, such as area of planting zones and numbers of plants in each planting zone. By delineating targeted planting areas and providing point data that can be uploaded to GPS receivers for those areas, MAPTITE creates the data files that allows users to accurately position specific species in suitable habitats and helps estimate the cost of planting these species in the restoration area.

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NCCOS delivers ecosystem science solutions for stewardship of the nation’s ocean and coastal resources to sustain thriving coastal communities and economies.

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