, Volume 34, Issue 1, pp 155–166 | Cite as

Inland Salt Marshes of the Northeastern United States: Stress, Disturbance and Compositional Stability

  • Anthony S. EallonardoJr.Email author
  • Donald J. Leopold


Inland salt marsh (ISM) is a globally endangered, halophytic plant community occurring where groundwater chemistry is influenced by brine. Our goal is to provide the most comprehensive analysis to date of the physiochemical setting and drivers of spatial and temporal variability of this community in the northeastern United States. Non-native Phragmites australis is a significant threat across the range of northeastern ISMs; hence we aim to characterize the conditions associated with the dominance of this species in ISMs. To our knowledge eight naturally-occurring and relatively unimpacted (or restored) ISMs remain in the Northeast. We evaluated the vegetation composition, soils and hydrology of four sites in Michigan and New York. Perennial species dominated the ISM in Michigan while annuals were dominant in New York’s ISMs that have not been invaded by P. australis. Native ISM species were restricted to areas of high soil salinity, frequent flooding, and low nutrient levels. Periodic droughts and animal disturbances augment these stresses and function to facilitate ISM stability by inhibiting dominance of robust emergent species. Humans have unintentionally created saline habitats throughout the Northeast; such areas may be restored with ISM species and the data provided herein should assist restoration professionals with this application.


Halophyte Invasive species Phenology Rarity Sodium 



Access to sites in New York was supported by Gregg Sargis (The Nature Conservancy) and Jim Eckler (New York State Department of Environmental Conservation). Field support and site access in Michigan were provided by Mike Penskar (Michigan Natural Features Inventory). Illinois natural heritage reports and herbarium records were provided by Tara Kieninger (Illinois Natural Heritage Database) and Rick Phillippe (Herbarium of the Illinois Natural History Survey), respectively. Steve Young (New York Natural Heritage Program) provided helpful element occurrence reports. The research described in this paper has been funded wholly or in part by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Science to Achieve Results (STAR) Graduate Fellowship Program. EPA has not officially endorsed this publication and the views expressed herein may not reflect the views of the EPA. The New York State Biodiversity Research Institute also provided financial support. Field and laboratory assistance was provided by Amber Eallonardo, Kelly Klingler, Jeremy Neumann, Justina Fedorchuck, and Samantha Knowlden. Constructive comments from the associate editor and reviewers substantially improved this paper.

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Society of Wetland Scientists 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anthony S. EallonardoJr.
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Donald J. Leopold
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Environmental and Forest BiologyState University of New York College of Environmental Science and ForestrySyracuseUSA
  2. 2.O’Brien & Gere, Eco-SciencesSyracuseUSA

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