Researchers are refining a user-friendly computer model, the Salt Marsh Assessment and Restoration Tool (SMART), to inform the design of restoration projects seeking to reestablish tidal flow and return an area to its native salt marsh habitat. Developed with input from coastal managers, SMART will use remote sensing technology such as aerial photography and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to acquire some of the data needed to run the model. Managers will be able to customize SMART for a site's hydrology, elevation, vegetation, and salinity. When they enter a proposed change, such as removing a culvert or installing a bridge, SMART calculates whether this will restore tidal flow to a level conducive to a healthy salt marsh. Managers also can forecast what will happen if no action is taken. As a result, SMART not only helps to determine which restoration techniques might work best for a given site, it also identifies which sites most require restoration, or are best-suited to recovery.|
Researchers are making a version of SMART available to coastal managers throughout the Gulf of Maine, including those at the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone management, Maine and New Hampshire coastal programs, and NOAA's Restoration Center for use at the federal level. Researchers have held workshops and training sessions with state resource managers, and believe the model will also be useful in academic settings. Although SMART's ecological component is specific to New England's salt marsh vegetation, the range of some species may make SMART useful as far south as the mid-Atlantic states. Adaptations of the model using different plant species could extend its applicability to other regions.