Responses of Plant Communities to Incremental Hydrologic Restoration of a Tide-Restricted Salt Marsh in Southern New England (Massachusetts, U.S.A.)

Authors


S. M. Smith, email stephen_m_smith@nps.gov

Abstract

Hydrologic restoration of Hatches Harbor, a tide-restricted marsh on Cape Cod (Massachusetts), has resulted in significant plant community changes 7 years following the reintroduction of seawater. Since 1999, incremental increases in flow through a tide-restricting dike have facilitated the rapid decline of salt-intolerant vegetation, while encouraging the expansion of native salt marsh taxa. These changes show strong spatial gradients and are correlated with marsh surface elevation, distance from the point of seawater entry, and porewater salinity. Common reed (Phragmites australis) has not decreased in abundance but has migrated a considerable distance upslope. In the wake of this retreat native halophytes have proliferated. Now that maximum flow through the existing dike structure has been reached, continued recovery may be limited less by changing physicochemical conditions and more by rates of growth, seed dispersal, and seed germination of salt marsh taxa.

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