The Office of Response and Restoration (OR&R) and the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS) are proposing a joint investigation to refine protocols for planting native marsh grasses as an oil spill response tactic in coastal marsh environments. Coastal marsh lands are ecologically critical areas that provide essential food, refuge and nursery habitat. They are also highly sensitive to oil spills and exceedingly difficult to clean up. Many of the
techniques used to clean other types of oiled shorelines can cause additional damage in marshlands and are not viable treatment options in these sensitive environments.
During the Deepwater Horizon oil spill NOAA investigated and implemented a wide variety of clean-up tactics in the most heavily impacted coastal marshes in Louisiana. Subsequent monitoring and investigations revealed that one of the most beneficial tactics employed was to replant native marsh grasses in the impacted areas. While this tactic shows potential, methods for replanting as an oil spill response treatment have not been defined or optimized.
The proposed investigation would utilize NCCOS’s marsh mesocosm facility in Charleston, SC to simulate an oiled coastal marsh. The oiled mesocosms will be re-planted with selected treatment regimes and their recovery will be followed over a 2-year period. This project will seek to assess the recovery of structure and function of replanted marsh grasses and compare different clean-up
treatments relative to unoiled reference conditions. The project will also seek to determine how replanting influences weathering and degradation of the oil. The initial round of experiments will also compare the relative viability of replanting using local, field-collected transplants vs. commercially available grasses obtained from regional nurseries.
This project is for the summer of 2019, but it is contingent upon approval as a discretionary project by NCCOS.