Wetlands Ecology and Management

, Volume 21, Issue 2, pp 131–145 | Cite as

Effects of man-made berms upon plant communities in New England salt marshes

  • Jordan W. MoraEmail author
  • David M. Burdick
Original Paper


New England has an extensive history in restricting salt marsh tidal flooding to promote agricultural, industrial, and environmental endeavors. While previous research has focused on the physical and biological impacts of large-scale tidal restrictions, such as dikes and undersized culverts, the effect of smaller historic earthen barriers (average height = 0.71 m ± 0.12 SE; average length = 166 m ± 41 SE), or berms, is less understood. Here, we investigate how salt marsh plant communities respond to berms located in the interior of the marsh and oriented parallel to tidal rivers or creeks. Based on the observations from a descriptive study, the landward side of the berm consistently shows a distinct plant species assemblage from the reference areas (ANOSIM: R = 0.541, p = 0.001), which is most likely a result of landward pool development. A follow-up manipulative transplant experiment considers how the landward pools affect the governing factors (e.g., physical stress, competition, etc.) controlling the distribution and abundance of Schoenoplectus maritimus and Spartina patens in the landward and seaward zones. The experimental results show that while physical stress seems to prevent robust S. patens growth in the landward zone (ANOVA: F = 24.697; p < 0.001), herbivory seems to be the main driving factor behind the low S. maritimus cover found in the seaward zone (Mann–Whitney: U = 56, p = 0.015). The combined results from the two studies show that berm-associated pools have the potential to impact biological interactions within and across trophic levels in salt marshes.


Tidal restriction Halophytes Competition Herbivory Schoenoplectus maritimus Spartina patens Meadow vole 



We are grateful to Gregg Moore, Thomas Lee, Chris Peter, Alyson Eberhardt, and Chris Neefus for their guidance on study design and statistical analyses. Also, special thanks to Zachary Drake, Lauren Kras, Yvette Garner, Anthony Kostek, Lance Mailloux, and Jonathan Felch for their help in the field and laboratory. Lastly, we would like to acknowledge the cooperation and support offered by the UNH Jackson Estuarine Laboratory; the Kennebunk Land Trust, Joan and Frank Graf of Durham, New Hampshire, Ed Ramsdell of the Seashore Trolley Museum in Kennebunkport, Maine, Michelle Dionne of the National Estuarine Research Reserve in Wells, Maine, and Kate O’Brien and Sue Adamowicz from the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge. This study was supported by: (1) the National Estuarine Research Reserve Graduate Research Fellowship, an award provided by the Estuarine Reserves Division of the Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management within the National Ocean Service of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Award Number: NA09NOS4200040); (2) the UNH Marine Program; (3) the Great Bay Stewards; (4) the UNH Graduate School; and (5) the UNH Department of Natural Resources and the Environment. Jackson Estuarine Laboratory Contribution Series # 515.

Supplementary material

11273_2013_9285_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (141 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 142 kb)
11273_2013_9285_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (84 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (PDF 84 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Waquoit Bay National Estuarine Research ReserveWaquoitUSA
  2. 2.Jackson Estuarine LaboratoryUniversity of New HampshireDurhamUSA

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