Floating Wetlands

Visit the National Aquarium’s floating wetland science lab

In many urban harbors around the world, native wetlands have been devastated due to coastal development. Restoring marine habitat is critical to supporting ecosystem restoration, preserving biodiversity, and improving water quality. However, there is often limited space which is why, The National Aquarium in Baltimore, Maryland, has been developing floating wetland technology for 10 years. In that period, they’ve found that plants and bacteria growing on the floating wetland draw excess nitrogen from the water, helping reduce algae blooms.

Scroll down to immerse yourself in the National Aquarium’s floating wetland study, located in Solomons Island, Maryland.

Examining the root mass of Spartina patens, also known as salt meadow hay. This species of salt grass is native to the Atlantic coast of the Americas. Photo credit: Theresa Keil / National Aquarium

Isabel Sanchez, a Graduate Research Assistant at the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, collecting water quality data from the mesocosm, an outdoor, experimental system that examines the natural environment under controlled conditions.
Photo credit: Theresa Keil / National Aquarium 

This core sample from the floating wetland is ready for incubation to measure nutrient cycling and removal rates. Photo credit: Theresa Keil / National Aquarium

This core sample from the floating wetland is ready for incubation to measure nutrient cycling and removal rates.
Photo credit: Theresa Keil / National Aquarium

The floating wetland is temporarily elevated by a crane to allow for tank cleaning. Root systems from planted Spartina patens grasses, can be seen emerging from beneath the wetland. Photo credit: Theresa Keil / National Aquarium

The floating wetland is temporarily elevated by a crane to allow for tank cleaning. Root systems from planted Spartina patens grasses can be seen emerging from beneath the wetland.
Photo credit: Theresa Keil / National Aquarium

An aerial view of the mesocosm setup at Chesapeake Biological Laboratory in Solomons, Maryland. Photo credit: Theresa Keil / National Aquarium

An aerial view of the mesocosm setup at Chesapeake Biological Laboratory in Solomons, Maryland.
Photo credit: Theresa Keil / National Aquarium

Isabel Sanchez, a Graduate Research Assistant at the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, prepping water collection equipment to transfer Baltimore Harbor water back to the lab where it will be used for the nutrient uptake rate study, to measure the floating wetland’s impact on water quality. Photo credit: Theresa Keil / National Aquarium

Isabel Sanchez, a Graduate Research Assistant at the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, prepping water collection equipment to transfer Baltimore Harbor water back to the lab where it will be used for the nutrient uptake rate study, to measure the floating wetland’s impact on water quality. Photo credit: Theresa Keil / National Aquarium

Planted Spartina patens grass plugs growing in the floating wetland mesocosm. The roots take up nutrients directly from the water, addressing the harbor’s high nitrogen content. Photo credit: Theresa Keil / National Aquarium

Planted Spartina patens grass plugs growing in the floating wetland mesocosm. The roots take up nutrients directly from the water, addressing the harbor’s high nitrogen content. Photo credit: Theresa Keil / National Aquarium

About National Aquarium

The National Aquarium is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to inspire conservation of the world’s aquatic treasures.

Header image: A floating wetland in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. 11th Hour Racing’s grant to the National Aquarium supports research investigating the rate of nutrient removal from the harbor by floating wetlands. Photo credit: ​​David Coffey/National Aquarium

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