Estuaries and Coasts

, Volume 38, Issue 4, pp 1099–1120 | Cite as

The Great Sippewissett Salt Marsh Plots—Some History, Highlights, and Contrails from a Long-Term Study

  • Ivan ValielaEmail author
The H.T. Odum Synthesis Essay


During the 2013 meeting of the Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation, Iris Anderson, acting on behalf of the CERF Board, invited me to write an Odum Essay, describing the long stretch of work done in the Great Sippewissett Marsh in Cape Cod, MA, reviewing findings, and recalling how the sequence of results moved the efforts forward across over 40-plus years.

In this essay, I include a brief summary of the decadal effort and results; it somewhat embarrassedly focuses on too many publications based on work done in Woods Hole, but tries to bring in at least some of the confirming and challenging results from other studies done in salt marshes elsewhere. Clearly, the efforts in the Great Sippewissett Salt Marsh represent only a part of the work of a highly active research community that has made steady progress in understanding coastal ecosystems, and salt marshes in particular. This essay honors Eugene, Howard, and William Odum, all significant contributors to estuarine...


Salt marshes Nitrogen Watersheds Estuaries Stable isotopes Nitrogen loading models Salt marsh vegetation Experimental manipulation 



The projects conducted during the more than 40 years of work and briefly described in this essay were supported by a series of grants from government and private sources. Governmental agencies providing support included National Science Foundation’s Ecosystems, Biological Oceanography, Chemical Oceanography, Land Margin Ecosystem Research, Long-Term Research in Environmental Biology, and Research Experience for Undergraduates programs, different sections within the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Sea Grant Programs at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, National Estuarine Research Reserve funds and several Graduate Fellowships, the ECOHAB, and CICEET programs, and Cape Cod Water Protection Collaborative of Barnstable County). Private sources included the Pew Memorial Trust and Victoria Foundations, the Nature Conservancy, the Friendship and Frank Chapman Memorial Funds, and Sigma Xi.

I am greatly in debt to Brian Howes and Dale Goehringer-Toner and their students at the School of Marine Sciences and Technology, University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, who steadfastly took over responsibility for maintenance of the fertilization treatments for the plots in recent years.

The work described here would have been impossible without the cooperation and permissions granted by the owners of marsh parcels in the Great Sippewissett Marsh, including Massachusetts Audubon Society, Arnold Gifford during the early years, and more recently, the Edward Hughes family.

I thank Iris Anderson for suggesting the topic of this essay, and I acknowledge the help of Blizzard Juno and other storms affecting the NE US in early 2015, which allowed days of snowbound writing that led to enough progress as to belatedly submit a response to Iris’s patient but numerous requests to complete this essay. Iris Anderson and Wayne Gardner provided many useful editorial suggestions about this text; remaining infelicities or errors are mine.

Most of all, I deeply appreciate the stimulation, advice, criticism, energy, and collegiality of the many mentors, co-PIs, post-docs, and students in the Woods Hole institutions and beyond, without which very little of the narrative of this essay could have taken place. Elizabeth Elmstrom produced the illustrations used in this essay.


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© Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Ecosystems CenterMarine Biological LaboratoryWoods HoleUSA

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