Salt marsh stabilization affects algal primary producers at the marsh edge

Mary I. O'Connor, Christy R. Violin, Andrea Anton, Laura M. Ladwig, Michael F. Piehler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  • 6 Citations

Abstract

As sea level rise and human activities erode coastal wetlands, managers rebuild or preserve wetlands that can perform the ecosystem services of a natural system. One increasingly common mitigation activity is the construction of rock sills in the low marsh zone to stabilize marsh elevation. Sills dramatically alter the physical structure of marshes by changing elevation, adding hard substrate and potentially altering the spatial structure of benthic algal communities in and adjacent to the low marsh. We documented differences in benthic algal abundance at the seaward marsh edge in silled and unsilled marshes in North Carolina. We found that sills were associated with reduced standing stocks of benthic algal primary production and reduced macroalgal taxonomic richness, and this difference was driven primarily by differences in macroalgal abundance. We experimentally tested the effect of macroalgal abundance on cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora) growth in the low zone of an unmanipulated marsh, and found that macroalgal removal had no effect on final cordgrass abundance. Our study suggests that salt marsh management through the construction of sills in low marsh zones impacts benthic primary production in the low marsh zone, but that benthic algal production does not affect cordgrass growth over a growing season.

LanguageEnglish (US)
Pages131-140
Number of pages10
JournalWetlands Ecology and Management
Volume19
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 2011

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salt marshes
saltmarsh
marshes
marsh
stabilization
sill
primary production
wetlands
benthic zone
Spartina alterniflora
algal community
coastal wetland
ecosystem service
ecosystem services
sea level
anthropogenic activities
preserves
managers
mitigation
human activity

Keywords

  • Benthic algae
  • Macroalgae
  • North Carolina
  • Salt marsh
  • Shoreline stabilization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

Cite this

Salt marsh stabilization affects algal primary producers at the marsh edge. / O'Connor, Mary I.; Violin, Christy R.; Anton, Andrea; Ladwig, Laura M.; Piehler, Michael F.

In: Wetlands Ecology and Management, Vol. 19, No. 2, 04.2011, p. 131-140.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

O'Connor, Mary I. ; Violin, Christy R. ; Anton, Andrea ; Ladwig, Laura M. ; Piehler, Michael F. / Salt marsh stabilization affects algal primary producers at the marsh edge. In: Wetlands Ecology and Management. 2011 ; Vol. 19, No. 2. pp. 131-140.
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