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Vegetation analysis and spatial visualization of a tidal salt marsh Public Deposited

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  • Mitchell Marsh, a tidal salt marsh in the Salmon River Estuary, was diked in the early 1960s. Restoration of the marsh, which began in late 1978, consisted of partial dike removal. Several studies have been conducted in the marsh, addressing the status of the developing salt marsh plant communities. Species composition data have been collected inthemarsh forthe years 1978,1979,1980,1984,1988,1993,1999, and 2004. Previous studies used multivariate methods, which did not address the spatial variation present in the developing communities. This study introduces an innovative method for representing spatial and temporal variation present in plant community distributions. To achieve this, several methods were used. First, cluster and indicator species analyses were performed in PCORD to identify plant assemblages for each year. Second, universal kriging was performed using the Geostatistical Analyst in ArcGIS. This resulted in a prediction map representing the spatial distribution of the plant assemblages. Third, an animation of the kriged plant assemblages was created to display continuous spatial plant assemblages from 1978 through 2004. The vegetation analysis results were very similar to those found in previous yearby- year studies conducted in the marsh. Initially the marsh was composed of wet pasture assemblages that mostly died off by 1980. The only assemblage that persisted beyond 1980 was a high marsh assemblage identified by Argentina egedii. By 1984 the salt marsh assemblages identified by Carex lyngbyei, Distichlis spicata, and Argentina egedii were developing. These assemblages varied slightly in composition and distribution over the years but presently appear much like they did in 1984. The innovative methods introduced in this study allow the interpretation of spatial and temporal distributions of plant communities. The results from this study may be added to the wealth of data on salt marsh ecosystems and will provide a building block for creating and interpreting visual representations of landscapes, ecosystems, and communities. In combination with many other studies, this one may help in the management and protection of this highly productive ecosystem.
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