Understanding plant community zonation along estuarine stress gradients is critical for effective conservation and restoration of coastal wetland ecosystems. We related the presence of plant community types to estuarine hydrology at 173 sites across coastal Louisiana. Percent relative cover by species was assessed at each site near the end of the growing season in 2008, and hourly water level and salinity were recorded at each site Oct 2007–Sep 2008. Nine plant community types were delineated with k-means clustering, and indicator species were identified for each of the community types with indicator species analysis. An inverse relation between salinity and species diversity was observed. Canonical correspondence analysis (CCA) effectively segregated the sites across ordination space by community type, and indicated that salinity and tidal amplitude were both important drivers of vegetation composition. Multinomial logistic regression (MLR) and Akaike's Information Criterion (AIC) were used to predict the probability of occurrence of the nine vegetation communities as a function of salinity and tidal amplitude, and probability surfaces obtained from the MLR model corroborated the CCA results. The weighted kappa statistic, calculated from the confusion matrix of predicted versus actual community types, was 0.7 and indicated good agreement between observed community types and model predictions. Our results suggest that models based on a few key hydrologic variables can be valuable tools for predicting vegetation community development when restoring and managing coastal wetlands.
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Predictive occurrence models for coastal wetland plant communities: delineating hydrologic response surfaces with multinomial logistic regression