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Limited Vegetation Development on a Created Salt Marsh Associated with Over-Consolidated Sediments and Lack of Topographic Heterogeneity

Brooks, KL and Mossman, HL and Chitty, JL and Grant, A (2014) Limited Vegetation Development on a Created Salt Marsh Associated with Over-Consolidated Sediments and Lack of Topographic Heterogeneity. Estuaries and Coasts, 38. ISSN 1559-2723

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Abstract

Restored salt marshes frequently lack the full range of plant communities present on reference marshes, with upper marsh species underrepresented. This often results from sites being too low in the tidal frame and/or poorly drained with anoxic sediments. A managed coastal realignment scheme at Abbotts Hall, Essex, UK, has oxic sediments at elevations at which upper marsh communities would be expected. But 7 years after flooding, it continued to be dominated by pioneer communities, with substantial proportions of bare ground, so other factors must hinder vegetation development at these elevations. The poorly vegetated areas had high sediment shear strength, low water and organic carbon content and very flat topography. These characteristics occur frequently on the upper parts of created marshes. Experimental work is required to establish causal links with the ecological differences, but other studies have also reported that reduced plant β-diversity and lower usage by fish are associated with topographic uniformity. Uniformity also leads to very different visual appearance from natural marshes. On the upper intertidal, sediment deposition rate are slow, water velocities are low and erosive forces are weak. So, topographic heterogeneity cannot develop naturally, even if creeks have been excavated. Without active management, these conditions will persist indefinitely.

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