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Salt marsh productivity with natural and altered tidal circulation

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The effects of altered tidal circulation on southern California salt marshes are investigated by comparing a well-flushed wetland and two modified wetlands which have reduced tidal flow. The Tijuana Estuary had continuous exchange of seawater but relatively low net aerial primary productivity (0.4–1.0 kg m-2yr-1) of vascular plants. Low productivity (0.6 kg m-2yr-1) was also found in the Flood Control Channel of the San Diego River, where tidal exchange was restricted to flow through a riprap dike. High productivity (1.2–2.9 kg m-2yr-1) in Los Penasquitos Lagoon was attributed to the influences of freshwater impounded behind a sand bar which blocked the mouth of the lagoon during much of the study period.

It is hypothesized that elimination of tidal flow during the growing season increased primary productivity of vascular plants because freshwater runoff decreased soil salinity and because nutrients were retained within the marsh. However, we predict that sand bar obstruction can decrease productivity if below-average rainfall leads to hypersalinity of closed lagoons. Comprehensive evaluation of the effects of altered tidal circulation requires longterm study and examination of the total ecosystem.

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Correspondence to Joy B. Zedler.

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Zedler, J.B., Winfield, T. & Williams, P. Salt marsh productivity with natural and altered tidal circulation. Oecologia 44, 236–240 (1980).

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  • Salt Marsh
  • Vascular Plant
  • Soil Salinity
  • Flood Control
  • Tidal Flow