Monitoring and Assessment of Valued Ecosystem Components (VEC) in a Constructed Juncus-dominated Salt Marsh on the Northern Gulf of Mexico

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Patrick Biber

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Monotypic stands of Juncus roemerianus dominate the marshes of the northeastern Gulf of Mexico, but few studies to date have examined the effects of restoration efforts on faunal inhabitants of these marsh ecosystems. This study examined environmental characteristics, faunal community structure, and trophic support in two restored marshes (5+ yrs and 15+ yrs) and a natural reference marsh (100+ yrs). Microbial diversity assessment in fall 2016 discovered that plants from the restored and reference areas supported similar microbial diversity indicating the rapid colonization of planted grasses with indigenous soil microbiota. Sampling in Spring and Fall 2017 through 2019 assessed the vascular plant community diversity and biomass, as well as relating these parameters to geomorphological characteristics of the area by measuring elevation and soil condition. The two constructed sites were found to have a diverse array of vegetation, but function of the salt marsh in terms of root production and sediment organic carbon deposition remained underdeveloped when compared to the natural reference site. Sampling targeted invertebrate abundances along the transects, which found to be were significantly higher in the natural marsh. Nekton abundance, species richness, and Simpson’s index of diversity varied by site and season. Stable isotope analysis provided additional insight into carbon sources and how energy is transferred through consumers in the restored marshes compared to the natural marsh. To survey breeding marsh birds, we utilized a standardized avian point count methodology to determine occupancy rates and species abundance for restored and natural tidal marsh sites. Construction of the sites with a fully enclosed berm and higher elevation than the natural reference marsh appears to have long-lasting consequences on restoration succession in a number of ecosystem structural and functional metrics.

Resource Type:
Conference Presentation, SER2021

Pre-approved for CECs under SER's CERP program