Community dynamics during salt marsh restoration over 10 years in a megatidal, ice-influenced environment

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Gregory S. Norris, Myriam A. Barbeau, Spencer D.S. Virgin, Allen D. Beck, Laura K. Boone, Jeff Ollerhead, Nic R. McLellan

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Salt marshes are vital ecosystems that provide coastal protection, carbon sequestration, and habitat for many species. Global salt marsh loss has been extensive; in the Bay of Fundy, Canada, an estimated 30,500 ha of salt marsh has been lost since European colonization. There is growing interest in salt marsh restoration to access valuable ecosystem services in an era of climate change and sea level rise. We monitored two managed realignment salt marsh restoration sites and two established salt marsh reference sites for sediment deposition and community dynamics from one year pre-breach to ten years post-breach to better understand successional trajectories in the upper Bay of Fundy. This study was the first of its kind in Maritime Canada and the first managed realignment in an ice-influenced and megatidal (tidal amplitude ~14 m) region. To date, we have identified four successional stages of salt marsh restoration: (1) deposition of unconsolidated sediment (>50 cm in some locations) and loss of terrestrial vegetation, (2) colonization and spread of Spartina alterniflora and loss of surviving S. pectinata (brackish vegetation), (3) homogenization of S. alterniflora cover, and (4) colonization and spread of high marsh vegetation in restoration sites. We expect the invertebrate community on the emergent marsh and in salt pools in the restoration sites to become more like the reference salt marsh community as plant zonation becomes more distinct. Successes and lessons learned from our project are guiding additional restoration projects in the Bay of Fundy, a region with high potential for salt marsh restoration.

Resource Type:
Conference Presentation, SER2021

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