Effects of mosquito ditching on salt marsh sediment budgets have not been quantified for lack of sufficient records, but such information is necessary to provide historical context for current management objectives. We were able to do so in Cape May County New Jersey where Mosquito Extermination Commission records reported 1,493,900 m3 of spoil redistributed through ditching from1902 to 1974. The amount of spoil redistributed rose to 2,240,850 m3–22,987,800 m3 overall when ditch cleaning efforts were included. On a 54 km2 study area, 161,560 m of ditches removed as much as 99,000 m3 of material. If all such sediment stayed in the system and was deposited in open water, it would have added 0.082 mm/yr to those areas. If the sediments had accumulated only in the larger water bodies, it would have been sufficient to add 0.16 mm/yr to those areas. Alternatively, if the material had been deposited only on the marsh surface, the material displaced by mosquito ditching was capable of adding only 0.036 mm/yr. These rates are inconsequential in a system infilling at a rate of 4.4–7.4 mm/yr. Materials released by mosquito ditching thus have added to the sediment budgets of this coastal system, but shoaling of bays and sounds in recent centuries is a consequence of increases in all sediment sources including many of anthropogenic origin. Nonetheless, other consequences of ditching to the marsh (e.g., increased drainage, transport of water, and erosion of ditch banks) are not negligible in consideration of all anthropogenic effects. These data can help parameterize models of salt marsh accretion in the face of climate change.
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Sediment redistributed by coastal marsh mosquito ditching in Cape May County, New Jersey, U.S.A.