Biological Invasions

, Volume 1, Issue 2, pp 149–158

A Paleoecological Assessment of Phragmites australis in New England Tidal Marshes: Changes in Plant Community Structure During the Last Few Millennia

  • Richard A. Orson

DOI: 10.1023/A:1010047731369

Cite this article as:
Orson, R.A. Biological Invasions (1999) 1: 149. doi:10.1023/A:1010047731369


Although Phragmites has been an upper border tidal marsh species for thousands of years, it is only recently (within the last century or so) that the distribution of this plant within the coastal marsh community has become prominent. Prior to approximately 100 years ago, Phragmites was an upper border/brackish marsh co-dominant in many marsh systems. Occurrence of this species varied between associations of sedges, Typha, forbs and a variety of woody shrubs. Paleoreconstructions rarely show the presence of a Phragmites monoculture or early associations with salt marsh species. However, since the turn of this century (and perhaps as early as the middle of the last century) the distribution of Phragmites has changed substantially. Today, this plant often forms dense monocultures and is commonly found in association with Spartina grasses. The results of this paleoecological investigation show that the changes that have been observed in Phragmites communities during the last 100 years are not part of the long-term cycle of development in these systems and are new to the landscape.

hydrologic manipulationsmonocultureNew EnglandpaleoecologyPhragmitesplant community structure

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard A. Orson
    • 1
  1. 1.Orson Environmental ConsultingBranfordUSA