Seeds to Shoreline marsh restoration program

by Nancy Hadley

DNR’s community based restoration program (SCORE) is a proud partner in a marsh restoration program known as Seeds to Shoreline.  Along with SC Sea Grant and Clemson Extension, The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (DNR) works with SC schools to restore saltmarsh. DNR’s commitment to the project has included purchasing two greenhouses which are dedicated to producing marsh seedlings and working with as many as eleven middle school classes each year.

Marsh seedlings growing in a greenhouse at Fort Johnson Marine Center.
Marsh seedlings growing in a greenhouse at Fort Johnson Marine Center. Photo from the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.
Growing the plants
Every fall marsh grass (Spartina alterniflora) flowers and produces seed stalks. When the seed stalks are fully matured the seeds will fall off when touched. They are ready to pick. Biologists from DNR, Sea Grant and Clemson Extension harvest the seeds and store them in a refrigerator to mimic winter time chilling. In January, participating schools plant the seeds in flats and place them in greenhouses to grow. By late spring the seedlings may be 8 to 12 inches tall.
Every fall marsh grass (Spartina alterniflora) flowers and produces seed stalks. When the seed stalks are fully matured the seeds will fall off when touched. They are ready to pick. Biologists from DNR, Sea Grant and Clemson Extension harvest the seeds and store them in a refrigerator to mimic winter time chilling. In January, participating schools plant the seeds in flats and place them in greenhouses to grow. By late spring the seedlings may be 8 to 12 inches tall. Photo from the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.
Learning about saltmarsh
Teachers learning about marsh grass at a summer workshop at Fort Johnson Marine Center.
Teachers learning about marsh grass at a summer workshop at Fort Johnson Marine Center. Photo from the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.

Sea Grant has developed classroom curricula to accompany the Seeds to Shoreline program.  Each summer the project partners conduct a workshop to train additional teachers.  In addition to growing marsh grass seedlings, participating classes will study saltmarsh throughout the school year.

Transplanting the grasses on the shoreline

In spring, the final field trip of the year for many participating schools, is a trip with one of the project partners to plant the marsh grass.  Schools working with DNR may plant marsh at Fort Johnson, the Pitt Street Bridge in Mount Pleasant, Cape Romain or the ACE Basin.

Students planting marsh grass behind an oyster reef in Mount Pleasant.
Students planting marsh grass behind an oyster reef in Mount Pleasant. Photo from the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.

Marsh grass is planted behind SCORE oyster reefs which will protect it from washing away.  Once established marsh can spread and further stabilize the shoreline.

Saltmarsh growing in behind SCORE reefs on the shoreline of Charleston Harbor at the Fort Johnson Marine Center. Photo by Benjamin Stone.
Saltmarsh growing in behind SCORE reefs on the shoreline of Charleston Harbor at the Fort Johnson Marine Center. Photo by Benjamin Stone.

Nancy Hadley is a marine biologist with the SC Department of Natural Resources where she heads up the Shellfish Management Program. 

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