Recovery of salt marsh vegetation after removal of storm-deposited anthropogenic debris: lessons from volunteer clean-up efforts in Long Beach, NY

  • Published source details Ehl K.M., Raciti S.M. & Williams J.D. (2017) Recovery of salt marsh vegetation after removal of storm-deposited anthropogenic debris: lessons from volunteer clean-up efforts in Long Beach, NY. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 117, 436-447.


This study is summarised as evidence for the following.

Action Category

Remove debris from brackish/salt marshes

Action Link
Marsh and Swamp Conservation
  1. Remove debris from brackish/salt marshes

    A replicated, paired, site comparison study in 2013–2015 in a coastal salt marsh in New York State, USA (Ehl et al. 2017) found that patches cleared of stranded wooden debris developed similar vegetation cover to undisturbed marsh within two growing seasons. Immediately after removing debris, the cleared patches contained less vegetation (density: <5 shoots/m2; cover: 1–2%) than adjacent undisturbed marsh (density: 290 shoots/m2; cover: 96%). After one growing season, overall vegetation abundance had increased in the cleared patches (density: 98–114 shoots/m2; cover: 28–33%) but was still lower than in undisturbed marsh (density: 292 shoots/m2; cover: 96%). The same was generally true for the abundance of the two dominant species, smooth cordgrass Spartina alterniflora and saltgrass Distichlis spicata, although saltgrass cover was statistically similar in cleared patches and undisturbed marsh (see original paper for data). After two growing seasons, vegetation cover was statistically similar in the cleared patches and undisturbed marsh (density not recorded). This was true for overall cover (cleared: 69–74%; undisturbed: 79%), smooth cordgrass (cleared: 42–45%; undisturbed: 51%) and saltgrass (cleared: 23–25%; undisturbed: 21%). Methods: Five chunks of wooden storm debris (1–4 m2) were cleared from a salt marsh. Initial clearance took place in October 2013, although part of each patch was re-covered over winter then permanently cleared in March 2014. Between October 2013 (after initial clearance) and August 2015, vegetation was surveyed within each cleared patch and its adjacent undisturbed marsh.

    (Summarised by: Nigel Taylor)

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