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  • Writer's pictureOona Molyneaux

The Power of Wetlands: An Overview of Current Nature-Based Solution Projects in Maine

Updated: Feb 20

Oona Molyneaux, Falmouth Resilience Fellow, analyzes nature-based solutions to climate change while identifying ways where Maine can apply these strategies to strengthen their resiliency.


After Maine experienced detrimental coastal flooding due to record breaking tides and winter storm surges in January 2024, a very timely workshop was held at Greater Portland Council of Governments (GPCOG). The Climate Ready Casco Bay workshop outlined the two-year project conducted by GPCOG and Gulf of Maine Research Institute (GMRI) and funded by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF). The project aims to develop nature-based coastal resilience solutions across eleven Casco Bay communities. The workshop left me curious about what Maine is doing to implement nature-based solutions (NBS) to address sea level rise.

 

Nature Based Solutions (NBS) use existing ecosystems to sustainably address socio-environmental issues and are often referred to as green infrastructure. There are times when green infrastructure is the solution, and some situations that call for the implementation of gray-green infrastructure which uses a combination of restored nature and man-made infrastructure such as roads. In order to use our resources most efficiently it is crucial to understand which environmental characteristics are suitable for a given solution. Science has shown us that restoring wetlands can provide benefits, including enhanced protection against shoreline erosion, improved water quality, increased carbon sequestration, and lead to thriving wildlife habitat (NOAA, 2023).

 

One example of a NBS is the preservation and restoration of salt marshes. Salt marsh preservation is crucial for Maine’s coast, given our reliance on the tourism and fisheries industries. Drive along Pine Point Road in July and you will surely witness people from all over the globe fixated on the Scarborough Marsh. But even this marsh has been confined by roads and golf courses. According to NOAA, salt marshes that have undisturbed connection to the sea can also provide habitat and food for fisheries species. Maintaining this connection is important to be able to support Maine’s fishing industries.

 

To protect and preserve wetlands throughout Maine, the Maine Geological Survey is conducting three demonstration projects to monitor the effectiveness of living shorelines. Living shorelines use native and non-native materials to stabilize eroding shoreline. The projects are being implemented at Wharton Point, and Maquoit Bay Conservation Lands in Brunswick as well as Lanes Island in Yarmouth. One aspect of this project that is transferable to coastal communities throughout the state is the Living Shorelines Decision Support Tool. This tool helps communities see where a living shoreline project will be effective along the coast and islands.

 

By incorporating non-native materials such as mesh bagged oyster shells and wood logs these projects will stabilize eroding shoreline. Slowing the progression of erosion along our shores can allow for the salt marshes to have time to regenerate stronger ecosystems, offering better sequestration of carbon and protection against sea level rise. The three projects are going to be monitored over the next five years to determine how they withstand wave action and winter storms.

 

As an aspiring environmentalist and native Mainer, I am constantly inspired by our natural world which can efficiently address community resilience and adaptation to climate change impacts. To me, salt marshes bring inspiration and solace. This is a belief I have held since learning about the complex ecosystem in high school. The natural ecosystems within which we exist can offer guidance on how we can continue to address these issues, but it is important that the systems are able to prosper with minimal human disruption. These demonstration projects highlight how human interaction with the natural world can address an issue such as coastal erosion while ensuring all the ecosystems stay connected.

 



 

 

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About Oona



Oona grew up on a homestead in Machias Maine, spent many winters in Sonora, Mexico, and now calls Portland, Maine home. Since attending the Maine Coast Semester at Chewonki, a school dedicated to sustainability and place-based learning, she discovered a passion for conservation through policy and fostering resilient communities. During her gap year she worked on olive farms in southern Spain through the Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms community. She applied her farming and organizing skills in her roles at FarmDrop and Cultivating Community. As the Maine Clean Communities intern at the Greater Portland Council of Governments, she expanded her knowledge of data organization, stakeholder and community outreach and municipal planning. In her free time, Oona enjoys cooking, adventuring with her puppy and beginning knitting projects which tend to remain unfinished. As a Resilience Corps Fellow, Oona is thrilled to assist the Town of Falmouth in the implementation of their Climate Action Plan.

 

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