Physical characteristics of sediments in coastal marsh ponds (flooded zones of marsh associated with little vegetation) have important ecological consequences because they determine compositions of benthic invertebrate communities, which in turn influence compositions of waterbird communities. Sediments in marsh ponds of the Gulf Coast Chenier Plain potentially are affected by (1) structural marsh management (levees, water control structures and impoundments; SMM), and (2) variation in salinity. Based on available literature concerning effects of SMM on sediments in emergent plant zones (zones of marsh occasionally flooded and associated with dense vegetation) of coastal marshes, we predicted that SMM would increase sediment carbon content and sediment hardness, and decrease oxygen penetration (O2 depth) and the silt-clay fraction in marsh pond sediments. Assuming that freshwater marshes are more productive than are saline marshes, we also predicted that sediments of impounded freshwater marsh ponds would contain more carbon than those of impounded oligohaline and mesohaline marsh ponds, whereas C:N ratio, sediment hardness, silt-clay fraction, and O2 depth would be similar among pond types. Accordingly, we measured sediment variables within ponds of impounded and unimpounded marshes on Rockefeller State Wildlife Refuge, near Grand Chenier, Louisiana. To test the above predictions, we compared sediment variables (1) between ponds of impounded (IM) and unimpounded mesohaline marshes (UM), and (2) among ponds of impounded freshwater (IF), oligohaline (IO), and mesohaline (IM) marshes. An a priori multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) contrast indicated that sediments differed between IM and UM marsh ponds. As predicted, the silt-clay fraction and O2 depth were lower and carbon content, C:N ratio, and sediment hardness were higher in IM than in UM marsh ponds. An a priori MANOVA contrast also indicated that sediments differed among IF, IO, and IM marsh ponds. As predicted, carbon content was higher in IF marsh ponds than in ponds of other impounded marsh types. In contrast to our predictions, C:N ratio and sediment hardness were lowest and silt-clay fraction and O2 depth were highest in IO and IM marsh ponds. Our results indicated that SMM has affected physical properties of sediments in coastal marsh ponds. Moreover, sediments in IF marsh ponds were affected more so than were those in IO and IM marsh ponds. Our results, in conjunction with those of previous studies, indicated that sediments of marsh ponds and emergent plant zones differed greatly. We predict that changes in pond sediments due to SMM will promote greater epifaunal macroinvertebrate biomass, which in turn should attract larger populations of wintering waterbirds. However, waterbirds that filter or probe soft sediments may be negatively affected by SMM because of the expected decrease in infaunal invertebrate biomass. ?? Springer 2005.
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Sediments in marsh ponds of the Gulf Coast Chenier Plain: Effects of structural marsh management and salinity