Five lagoonal salt marsh areas, ranging from 220 ha to 3,670 ha, were selected from Cape Cod, Massachusetts to the southern DelMarVa peninsula, Virginia, USA to examine the degree to which Spartina marsh area and microhabitats had changed from the early or mid- 1900s to recent periods. We chose areas based on their importance to migratory bird populations, agency concerns about marsh loss and sea-level rise, and availability of historic imagery. We georeferenced and processed aerial photographs from a variety of sources ranging from 1932 to 1994. Of particular interest were changes in total salt marsh area, tidal creeks, tidal flats, tidal and non-tidal ponds, and open water habitats. Nauset Marsh, within Cape Cod National Seashore, experienced an annual marsh loss of 0.40% (19% from 1947 to 1994) with most loss attributed to sand overwash and conversion to open water. At Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge in southern New Jersey, annual loss was 0.27% (17% from 1932 to 1995), with nearly equal attribution of loss to open water and tidal pond expansion. At Curlew Bay, Virginia, annual loss was 0.20% (9% from 1949 to 1994) and almost entirely due to perimeter erosion to open water. At Gull Marsh, Virginia, a site chosen because of known erosional losses, we recorded the highest annual loss rate, 0.67% per annum, again almost entirely due to erosional, perimeter loss. In contrast, at the southernmost site, Mockhorn Island Wildlife Management Area, Virginia, there was a net gain of 0.09% per annum (4% from 1949 to 1994), with tidal flats becoming increasingly vegetated. Habitat. implications for waterbirds are considerable; salt marsh specialists such as laughing gulls (Larus atricilla), Forster's terns (Sterna forsteri), black rail, (Laterallus jamaicensis), seaside sparrow (Ammodramus maritimus), and saltmarsh sharp-tailed sparrow (Ammodramus caudacutus) are particularly at risk if these trends continue, and all but the laughing gull are species of concern to state and federal managers.
Additional Publication Details
Changes in lagoonal marsh morphology at selected northeastern Atlantic coast sites of significance to migratory waterbirds