Salem River Grassland Restoration Site
Situated immediately north of the city of Salem, this tract includes a 30-acre former agricultural field and its surrounding landscape, which are being restored to native cover. This area is part of both the Mannington Meadows Natural Heritage Priority Site and the Mannington Meadows Important Bird Area. The complex of wetlands, streams, agricultural uplands, and early successional ecosystems provides stopover habitat for migrating waterfowl and shorebirds, as well as nesting and foraging resources for raptors and grassland birds. The surrounding landscape supports a variety of rare reptiles, amphibians, mammals, invertebrates, fish, and plant species, making it a highly valuable economic and ecological resource.
The Salem restoration project includes a tidal wetland restoration and the conversion of 30 acres of fallow agricultural land to a native grassland. Native shrubland will be created along the grassland-wetland ecotone.
The wetland restoration will consist of controlling invasive Phragmites australis (common reed) to allow natural regeneration of native marsh plants. The rapid spread of Phragmites throughout the region has already rendered vast areas of marsh and marsh-upland ecotones unsuitable for many obligate species of birds, including Henslow's Sparrows and Sedge Wrens. Control of Phragmites australis will enhance habitat for birds such as these.
In the grassland restoration, NJA has planted native warm-season grasses in a 30-acre field that was formerly planted in annual row crops. This plant community can be expected to attract a variety of wildlife, including monarch butterflies, native bees, bobolinks, Eastern meadowlarks, American kestrels, savanna sparrows, Eastern box turtles, and Eastern cottontails. After grasses are well established and Phragmites has been controlled, native shrubs will be planted along the ecotone, or transition zone, between the two habitat types. Populations of scrub-shrub dependent species are declining as their habitat declines due to development or succession to forest. Species that may benefit from establishment of scrub-shrub habitat include willow flycatcher, yellow-breasted chat, indigo bunting, and prairie warbler.
By putting this marsh-side property into native cover, the project reduces soil erosion and enhances water quality in the Mannington Meadows and Delaware Estuary. This will benefit not only rare and endangered raptors, such as the bald eagle and the osprey, but also many waterfowl and shorebirds species. This project offers benefits to people as well, through improved water quality, improved hunting and fishing resources, and other recreational opportunities.