2020, 2021


Baltimore, MD

National Aquarium

Research on Water Quality Improvements from Floating Wetlands

In many urban harbors around the world, native wetlands have been lost or degraded as a result of coastal development. Many coastal cities are interested in restoring marine habitat and using green infrastructure as a way to improve water quality and support and preserve local biodiversity. However, there is often limited space to restore coastal wetlands and marshes which has led to the development of a new form of green infrastructure: floating wetlands.

The National Aquarium has been developing floating wetland technology for 10 years, and today there are several types of floating wetland models that can be adapted for private waterfront properties or scaled up for urban waterfront cities looking to implement green infrastructure projects.

This grant will support research that investigates the rate of nutrient removal from the harbor by floating wetlands. This lab-based study will track the accumulation of nutrients in floating wetland plant biomass and the associated changes in nutrient concentrations within the estuarine water in order to quantify the potential for this new form of green infrastructure to improve water quality in highly-developed urban harbors. Ultimately, this research will help communities determine if floating wetlands are a best practice that should be more widely implemented.

This project also has a growing, successful educational impact as the Aquarium incorporates water quality testing into its hands-on science education programs for Baltimore City students.

  • Partner with Koolhof Earth and the University of Maryland Center of Environmental Science (UMCES) to quantify water quality benefits of floating wetlands in urban harbors, particularly their ability to remove pollutants and absorb excess nitrogen from the water. 
  • Partner with Baltimore Office of Sustainability and Maryland Department of Natural Resources to obtain continuous, near real-time water monitoring data (dissolved oxygen, salinity, temperature, turbidity, pH, and chlorophyll) at the study site.   
  • Coordinate efforts to present findings to city and state officials in order to promote certification of floating wetlands as Best Management Practice (BMP) to address nutrient pollution in estuarine waters. 
  • Utilize floating wetlands as experiential STEM education for schools and visible community engagement tools to teach urban pollution, habitat restoration, land-sea connection, and other related topics.
About National Aquarium

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

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