New England salt marsh pools provide important wildlife habitat and are the object of on-going salt marsh restoration projects; however, they have not been quantified in terms of their basic geomorphic and geographic traits. An examination of 32 ditched and unditched salt marshes from the Connecticut shore of Long Island Sound to southern Maine, USA, revealed that pools from ditched and unditched marshes had similar average sizes of about 200 m2, averaged 29 cm in depth, and were located about 11 m from the nearest tidal flow. Unditched marshes had 3 times the density (13 pools/ha), 2.5 times the pool coverage (83 m pool/km transect), and 4 times the total pool surface area per hectare (913 m2 pool/ha salt marsh) of ditched sites. Linear regression analysis demonstrated that an increasing density of ditches (m ditch/ha salt marsh) was negatively correlated with pool density and total pool surface area per hectare. Creek density was positively correlated with these variables. Thus, it was not the mere presence of drainage channels that were associated with low numbers of pools, but their type (ditch versus creek) and abundance. Tidal range was not correlated with pool density or total pool surface area, while marsh latitude had only a weak relationship to total pool surface area per hectare. Pools should be incorporated into salt marsh restoration planning, and the parameters quantified here may be used as initial design targets.
Additional publication details
New England salt marsh pools: A quantitative analysis of geomorphic and geographic features