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The Functions and Values of Fringing Salt Marshes in Northern New England, USA

Abstract

We compared the functions and values of fringing salt marshes to those of meadow marshes along the southern Maine/New Hampshire coast. Differences included soil organic matter content, plant species richness, and percent cover of high and low-marsh species. More sediment was trapped per unit area in fringing marshes than in meadow marshes, but this difference was not significant. Similarities included aboveground and belowground peak season biomass and the ability to dampen wave energy. Both marsh types reduced the height of waves coming onto the marsh surface by 63% only 7 m into the marsh. Fringing marshes are diverse in terms of their physical characteristics (width, length, slope, elevation, soils). Despite their small size, they are valuable components of estuaries, performing many ecological functions to the same degree as nearby meadow marshes. More effort should be made to include them in regional efforts to conserve and restore coastal habitats.

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Acknowledgements

We thank Thomas Lee, William B. Bowden, and Michelle Dionne for their advice during this project. Thanks also to the many field and laboratory assistants from the Jackson Estuarine Laboratory and the University of New England. Special thanks to Ryan Davis, Jeff Gaeckle, and Blaine Kopp for their support and critique. Funding for this project came from the University of New England, University of New Hampshire, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, grant or cooperative agreement no. NA77OR0235. This is Jackson Estuarine Laboratory contribution number 475.

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Correspondence to Pamela A. Morgan.

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Morgan, P.A., Burdick, D.M. & Short, F.T. The Functions and Values of Fringing Salt Marshes in Northern New England, USA. Estuaries and Coasts 32, 483–495 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12237-009-9145-0

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Keywords

  • Fringe marsh
  • Meadow marsh
  • Vegetation
  • Gulf of Maine