Estuaries and Coasts

, Volume 33, Issue 1, pp 151–160 | Cite as

The Legacy of Agricultural Reclamation on Channel and Pool Networks of Bay of Fundy Salt Marshes

  • Graham K. MacDonald
  • Paula E. Noel
  • Danika van Proosdij
  • Gail L. ChmuraEmail author


We assess the status of channel networks and pools of two tidal salt marshes recovering from more than a century of agricultural reclamation on the Bay of Fundy, Canada. A process of largely unmanaged restoration occurred at these sites since abandonment of agricultural activities during the first half of the twentieth century. Each recovering marsh was compared to a reference marsh that was never drained or ditched. We field mapped channel networks at all marshes and used aerial photographs to map the pre-abandonment channel network at one of the sites. The recovering marshes have hybrid channel networks that feature highly variable channel morphologies, loss of original channels, and incorporation of drainage ditches. Although channel networks in recovering marshes integrate agricultural ditches, the recovering marsh networks may not be substantially increased in length or density. Our aerial photograph analysis shows that channel density at one of the recovering marshes is comparable to the pre-abandonment density, but with reduced sinuosity. Field mapping of permanent tidal pools on the lower Bay marshes revealed that pools cover 13% of the recovering marsh, compared to ∼5% of the reference marsh. This study demonstrates that these essential marsh features can be regained through restoration or simple abandonment of drainage infrastructure.


Recovering wetlands Salt marsh Tidal channels Creeks Ponds Restoration 



The Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), the Bay of Fundy Ecosystem Partnership and the Royal Canadian Geographic Society of Canada provided financial support for this project. We are grateful to A. Sabourin and S. Byers, who assisted with field mapping; S. Byers also provided many helpful suggestions regarding the design of the project. We thank R. Sengupta and G. Baker for their technical advice concerning GIS methodologies. We appreciate the comments from two anonymous reviewers that improved this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Graham K. MacDonald
    • 1
    • 2
  • Paula E. Noel
    • 1
    • 3
  • Danika van Proosdij
    • 4
  • Gail L. Chmura
    • 5
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Geography and Global Environmental and Climate Change CentreMcGill UniversityMontrealCanada
  2. 2.Department of Natural Resource SciencesMcGill UniversitySainte Anne de BellevueCanada
  3. 3.Nature Conservancy of Canada, Atlantic RegionFrederictonCanada
  4. 4.Department of GeographySaint Mary’s UniversityHalifaxCanada
  5. 5.Department of Geography and Global Environmental and Climate Change CentreMcGill UniversityMontrealCanada

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