Increasing Coastal Resilience through Restoration and Education in Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island

Created: 4/12/2010 - Updated: 10/01/2020


Save the Bay in Providence, Rhode Island, has worked to improve the ability of coastal zones to absorb storm surges and rising sea levels by creating more vibrant, living shorelines that are adaptive by nature through restoration of eelgrass, scallop, and salt marsh habitats. Save the Bay also educates landowners and the public on climate change and ways to decrease vulnerability.


Save the Bay is working to integrate climate change adaptation into its programmatic approach by protecting and restoring habitat, lowering nutrient inputs, and working with local communities on coastal planning. Climate change impacts of concern to Narragansett Bay include sea level rise, erosion, increased frequency and intensity of storm events, increased precipitation, and increases in water temperatures. These changes will affect the bay’s flora and fauna, and pose economic and public health risks, including loss of public access and shoreline property, and increased asthma attacks and mosquito-borne illnesses like West Nile and Encephalitis. Save the Bay is trying to be proactive and responsive to climate change by incorporating climate change concerns into their daily work and increasing the resilience of Narragansett Bay. The organization is promoting green building technology, integrating climate change into its education and public outreach curriculum, and making its website a local information hub on climate change. In concentrating their efforts on improving the resilience of coastal zones to absorb storm surges and rising sea levels, Save the Bay is creating living shorelines, promoting restoration efforts, and working with landowners to establish shoreline buffers along property lines.


Five of Save the Bay’s programs aim to increase coastal resilience:

  1. Eelgrass restoration – A 10-year effort to restore eelgrass beds, a source of food and shelter, to Narragansett Bay.
  2. Salt marsh restoration – Twelve salt marsh projects, which are underway to reestablish native high and low marsh plant communities, increase wildlife usage, and decrease the height and vigor of Phragmites australis, an invasive plant. The 12 sites include Allins Cove, Big Mussachuck Creek, Colt State Park, Duck Cove, Fields Point, Gooseneck Cove, Jacob’s Point, Little Mussachuck Creek, Silver Creek, Stillhouse Cove, Town Pond/Boyd’s Lane, and Walker Farm.
  3. Scallop restoration – Supported by funding from NOAA’s Community-based Restoration Program, project leads are working to restore the Atlantic bay scallop (Argopecten irradians) population.
  4. Dam removal – Over 650 dams in Rhode Island have been constructed for water supply, power supply, and recreation. Save the Bay has partnered with federal, state, and local groups to remove dams, which can restore natural habitat and wildlife, improve natural sediment fluxes and beach nourishment, and improve water quality (natural water temperatures, dissolved oxygen levels).
  5. Bay-friendly backyards – Save the Bay educates shoreline landowners to create natural vegetative buffers and use environmentally friendly landscape design. They have developed guidebooks for coastal property owners to encourage low impact development and management of shoreline property – Backyards on the Bay: A Yard Care Guide for the Coastal Home Owner and Coastal Property and Landscape Management Guidebook. In restoration efforts of eelgrass beds, scallops, and salt marshes, volunteers have been actively involved.

Outcomes and Conclusions

Save the Bay is continuing with its restoration and protection efforts in order to improve the resilience of Narragansett Bay to climate change. In addition to monitoring the success of restoration activities, the organization also is integrating climate change into all aspects of its work, including its educational programs.


Information gathered from interviews and online resources. Last updated on 4/10/10.

Project File (s)


Gregg, R. M. (2010). Increasing Coastal Resilience through Restoration and Education in Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island [Case study on a project of Save the Bay]. Product of EcoAdapt's State of Adaptation Program. Retrieved from CAKE:… (Last updated April 2010)


Scale of Project
State / Provincial
Sector Addressed
Conservation / Restoration
Target Climate Changes and Impacts
Air temperature
Phenological shifts
Sea level rise
Storms or extreme weather events
Water temperature
Climate Type
Type of Adaptation Action/Strategy
Natural Resource Management / Conservation
Incorporate future conditions into natural resources planning and policies
Reduce local climate or related change
Reduce non-climate stressors
Sociopolitical Setting
Effort Stage
In progress