Dr. Komatsu studies nature-based restoration in the Chesapeake and Coastal Bays
The icy breeze waved Dr. Masayuki Komatsu’s tie like a luffing sail as he gamely squished across the marsh in his muck boots. During this time of year in Maryland the air crackles with cold and darkness settles quickly onto afternoons. However, with a purpose as grand as bringing nature-based solutions to Japan, Dr. Komatsu, President of the Ecosystem Research Institute (Japan), approached each day of his two-week trip to Maryland with an enthusiasm and positivity that warmed the chilly air. This visit was part of a continued partnership between Underwood & Associates, the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC), Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR), and the Ecosystem Research Institute (Japan) to bring regenerative and nature-based ecosystem restoration techniques to Japan. Since 2020, Underwood & Associates has visited Japan twice, and it was our turn (along with our partners) to gladly host Dr. Komatsu on our home sandy soil. During the visit, Dr. Komatsu met with scientists, natural resource practitioners, agencies, environmental nonprofits, and community members to learn more about how the United States and Maryland in particular view and implement nature-based solutions. These meetings were often in a restored bog, at an active construction site, or on a boat, rather than around a conference table. We toured a total of twelve of our restoration sites, from the oldest at Howards Branch Bog Restoration, to the newest at Najoles Road Stream Restoration, and many in between. At SERC we visited the Muddy Creek Stream Restoration and discussed the 2018 paper that resulted from studying sediment, nitrogen, and phosphorus reductions at this project, “The multiscale effects of stream restoration on water quality”. We traveled up and over the Bay Bridge and across the flat farmland of the Eastern Shore to tour projects we have completed in partnership with Maryland Coastal Bays Program (MCBP), including Lizard Hill wetland, the living shoreline at Assateague State Park, and Bishopville Dam Removal and Restoration. A highlight of the coast trip was zipping across the Coastal Bays on MCBP’s aluminum hull boat to Tizzard Island, an upcoming shorebird habitat restoration project.
Throughout the various meetings and project tours, Dr. Komatsu learned about the history of collaboration within the Chesapeake and Coastal Bays Watersheds that led to prioritizing the health of ecosystems to benefit nature and coastal communities. He shared Japan’s successes and challenges as they similarly seek solutions to improve water quality (specifically to restore and maintain Japan’s fisheries) while also increasing resilience to large storm events. All partners continue to learn and grow from the exchange of information in this blossoming intercontinental relationship. Dr. Komatsu plans to orchestrate another visit in the spring, this time bringing Japanese politicians and natural resource partners to meet with key players in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. We look forward to a balmy spring visit when our restoration sites will be able to greet our Japanese partners with lush green growth, awakening wildlife, and the first blooms of the season.