Spatial pattern of localized disturbance along a southeastern salt marsh tidal creek

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Geomorphology may be an important predictor of vegetation pattern in systems where suceptibility to disturbance is unevenly distributed across the landscape. Salt marsh communities exhibit spatial pattern in vegetation at a variety of spatial scales. In coastal Georgia, the low marsh is a virtual monoculture ofSpartina alterniflora interspersed with patches of species that are more typical of the high marsh. These localized disturbances are most likely created by wrack mats, mats of dead vegetation which can compact and smother underlying vegetation creating bare patches for colonization by high marsh species. We investigated the spatial pattern of disturbed patches along a 2 km section of Dean Creek, a tidal creek at the southwestern end of Sapelo Island, Georgia, U.S. We used a discriminant model to explore the relationship between tidal creek morphology (e.g., the presence of drainage channels and creek bends) and the spatial distribution of disturbed patches. The model predicted vegetation pattern along the creek with relatively high accuracy (>70%). Areas where water movement is slowed or multidirectional (e.g., along creek bends and near drainage channels) were most susceptible to disturbance. Our findings suggest an important functional linkage between geomorphology and vegetation pattern in salt marsh communities.


Copryight 2000 Estuarine Research Federation

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Fischer, J. M., Reed-Andersen, T., Klug, J. L., & Chalmers, A. G. (2000). Spatial pattern of localized disturbance along a southeastern salt marsh tidal creek. Estuaries, 23(4), 565-571. doi:10.2307/1353146.