Development and validation of rapid assessment indices of condition for coastal tidal wetlands in southern New England, USA Authors
First Online: 07 January 2011 Received: 06 January 2010 Accepted: 19 December 2010 DOI:
Cite this article as: Wigand, C., Carlisle, B., Smith, J. et al. Environ Monit Assess (2011) 182: 31. doi:10.1007/s10661-010-1856-y Abstract
Vegetation, soils, on-site disturbances, and watershed land use and land cover were assessed at 81 coastal tidal wetland sites using the New England Rapid Assessment Method. Condition indices (CIs) were derived from various combinations of the multi-dimensional data using principal component analyses and a ranking approach. Nested within the 81 wetlands was a set of ten reference sites which encompassed a range of watershed development and nitrogen loadings. The reference set of coastal tidal wetlands was previously examined with an intensive assessment, which included detailed measures of vegetation, soils, and infauna. Significant relationships were found between most of the rapid assessment CIs and the intensive assessment index. Significant relationships were also found between rapid assessment CIs and the developed lands in a 1-km buffer around the coastal wetlands. The regression results of the rapid assessment CIs with the intensive assessment index suggest that measures of vegetation communities, marsh landscape features, onsite marsh disturbances, and watershed natural lands can be used to develop valid CIs, and that it is unnecessary to make finer scale measurements of plant species and soils when evaluating ambient condition of coastal tidal wetlands in southern New England. However, increasing the survey points within coastal tidal wetland units when using a rapid assessment method in southern New England would allow for more observations of vegetation communities, marsh landscape features, and disturbances. Nevertheless, more detailed measures of hydrology, soils, plant species, and other biota may be necessary for tracking restoration or mitigation projects. A robust and standardized rapid assessment method will allow New England states to inventory the ambient condition of coastal tidal wetlands, assess long-term trends, and support management activities to restore and maintain healthy wetlands.
Keywords Rapid assessment method Coastal wetlands Tidal wetland Salt marsh Condition index Principal component analysis NERAM validation Download to read the full article text References
Bertness, M. D. (1991). Zonation of Spartina patens and Spartina alterniflora in a New England salt marsh.
Bertness, M. D. (1992). The ecology of a New England salt marsh.
American Scientist, 80, 260–268.
Bertness, M. D., & Ellison, A. M. (1987). Determinants of pattern in a New England salt marsh plant community.
Ecological Monographs, 57
Brinson, M. M., & Rheinhardt, R. (1996). The role of reference wetlands in functional assessment and mitigation.
Ecological Applications, 6
, 69–76. doi:
Brooks, R. P., Wardrop, D. H., & Bishop, J. A. (2004). Assessing wetland condition on a watershed basis in the mid-Atlantic region using synoptic land-cover maps.
Environmental Monitoring and Assessment, 94
, 9–22. doi:
Carullo, M., Carlisle, B. K., & Smith, J. P. (2007).
A New England rapid assessment method for assessing condition of estuarine marshes: A Boston Harbor, Cape Cod and Islands pilot study. Boston: Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management.
Collins, J. N., Stein, E. D., Sutula, M., Clark, R., Fetscher, A. E., & Grenier, L., et al. (2008).
California rapid assessment method (CRAM) for wetlands
(ver. 5.0.2, 151 pp.).
Donnelly, J. P., & Bertness, M. D. (2001). Rapid shoreward encroachment of salt marsh cordgrass in response to accelerated sea-level rise.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 98
, 14218–14223. doi:
Fennessy, M. S., Jacobs, A. D., & Kentula, M. E. (2007). An evaluation of rapid methods for assessing the ecological condition of wetlands.
, 543–560. doi:
Fillis, D. (2005). Assessment of wetland condition: A new approach for New England salt marshes. Master’s Thesis. School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, p. 59.
Findlay, C. S., & Bourdages, J. (2000). Response time of wetland biodiversity to road construction on adjacent lands.
Conservation Biology, 14
, 86–94. doi:
Findlay, C. S., & Houlahan, J. (1997). Anthropogenic correlates of species richness in southeastern Ontario wetlands.
Conservation Biology, 11
, 1000–1009. doi:
Herlihy, A. T., Larsen, D. P., Paulsen, S. G., Urquhart, N. S., & Rosenbaum, B. J. (2000). Designing a spatially balanced, randomized site selection process for regional stream surveys: The EMAP mid-Atlantic pilot study.
Environmental Monitoring and Assessment, 63
Herrick, J. E., & Jones, T. L. (2002). A dynamic cone penetrometer for measuring soil penetration resistance.
Soil Science Society of America Journal, 66
Huber, I & Nuerminger, T. (2003).
Project report: Rhode Island Narragansett Bay project area: Trends analysis methodology. University of Massachusetts, Natural Resources Assessment Group.
Jacobs, A., McLaughlin, E., & O’Brien, D. L. (2008).
Mid-Atlantic tidal wetland rapid assessment method (Ver. 1.0). Delaware Department of natural Resources and Environmental Control, Division of Water Resources.
Karr, J. R., & Chu, E. W. (1999).
Restoring life in running waters: Better biological monitoring. Washington, DC: Island Press.
Lerberg, S. B., Holland, A. F., & Sanger, D. M. (2000). Responses of tidal creek macro-benthic communities to the effects of watershed development.
, 838–853. doi:
Neckles, H. A., & Dionne, M., eds. (2000).
Regional standards to identify and evaluate tidal wetland restoration in the Gulf of Maine: A GPAC workshop report
. Wells, Maine: Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve, Available at
Neckles, H. A., Dionne, M., Burdick, D. M., Roman, C. T., Buchsbaum, R., & Hutchins, E. (2002). A monitoring protocol to assess tidal restoration of salt marshes on local and regional scales.
Restoration Ecology, 10
Nixon, S. W. (1982).
The ecology of New England high salt marshes: A community profile. FFWS/OBS81/55. Washington, DC: United States Fish and Wildlife Service.
Redfield, A. C. (1972). Development of a New England salt marsh.
Ecological Monographs, 42
Roman, C. T., Jaworski, N., Short, F. T., Findlay, S. & Warren, S. (2000). Estuaries of the northeastern United States: Habitat and land use signatures.
, 743–764. doi:
Roman, C. T., James-Pirri, M. J., & Heltshe, J. F. (2001).
Monitoring salt marsh vegetation: A protocol for the long-term coastal ecosystem monitoring program at Cape Cod National Seashore
. Wellfleet, Mass: Cape Cod National Seashore. On-line at
Smith, R. D., Ammann, A., Bartoldus, C. & Brinson, M. M. (1995).
An approach for assessing wetland functions using hydrogeomorphic classification, reference wetlands, and functional indices (p. 90). Vicksburg: US Army Corps of Engineers, Waterways Experiment Station. Wetlands research technical report WRP-DE-9.
Twohig, T. (2005). Assessing soil dynamics relative to salt marsh restoration efforts in New England. Master’s Thesis. Department of Natural Resources Science, University of Rhode Island, Kingston, RI.
Wigand, C. (2008). Coastal salt marsh community change in Narragansett Bay in response to cultural eutrophication. In: A. Desbonett & B. A. Costa-Pierce (Eds.),
Science for ecosystem-based management
(pp. 499–522). New York: Springer.
Wigand, C., Brennan, P., Stolt, M., Holt, M. & Ryba, S. (2009). Soil respiration rates in coastal marshes subject to increasing watershed nitrogen loads in southern New England, US.
Wetlands, 29, 952–963.
Wigand, C., McKinney, R., Chintala, M., Charpentier, M. & Thursby, G. (2003). Relationships of nitrogen loadings, residential development, and physical characteristics with plant structure in New England salt marshes. Estuaries, 26(6), 1494–1504. doi:
Wigand, C., McKinney, R., Chintala, M., Charpentier, M. & Groffman, P. (2004). Denitrification enzyme activity of fringe salt marshes in New England (USA).
Journal of Environmental Quality, 33
Wigand, C., McKinney, R., Chintala, M., Lussier, S. & Heltshe, J. (2010). Development of a reference coastal wetland set in Southern New England (USA).
Environmental Monitoring and Assessment, 161
(4), 583–598. doi:
© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. (outside the USA) 2011