Does vegetation in restored salt marshes equal naturally developed vegetation?

  • Published source details Van L.J.M., Van D.H.F., Slim P.A., Huiskes H.P.J. & Dirkse G.M. (2015) Does vegetation in restored salt marshes equal naturally developed vegetation?. Applied Vegetation Science, 18, 674-682.


This study is summarised as evidence for the following.

Action Category

Build barriers to protect littoral brackish/salt marshes from rising water levels and severe weather

Action Link
Marsh and Swamp Conservation
  1. Build barriers to protect littoral brackish/salt marshes from rising water levels and severe weather

    A replicated, site comparison study in 2011–2013 of salt marshes in the Netherlands (van Loon-Steensma et al. 2015) reported that degraded marshes behind low sea walls developed similar plant/algal communities to natural salt marshes within 15–22 years, but contained fewer plant/algal species. The overall plant/algal community composition in protected salt marshes fell within the range of the community composition of natural marshes (data reported as graphical analyses; statistical significance of similarity not assessed). In both protected and natural marshes, the most common species were glasswort Salicornia europaea (present in 59–66% of quadrats), saltmarsh grass Puccinellia maritima (59–63%) and seablite Suaeda maritima (58–62%). However, only 85 species of plants and algae were recorded in the protected salt marshes, compared to 155 species recorded in natural salt marshes in the region. Protected marshes were missing some of the rarer species present in natural marshes. Methods: In 2011 and 2013, cover of every plant and algal species was recorded (in 148 circular 4-m2 quadrats) across two coastal salt marshes in the Dutch Wadden Sea. The marshes had developed behind low sea walls (10–60 m from the salt marsh edge, extending 1 m above mean sea level) built in 1991 and 1998 to protect remnant, eroding marsh vegetation. Previously published data, from 6,198 quadrats in natural marshes across the Dutch Wadden Sea, were used for comparison.

    (Summarised by: Nigel Taylor)

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