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Flora and Vegetation of Piermont Marsh

Erik Kiviat
Presentation 2014 Erik Kiviat
What was there in 1948?
Cattail was most abundant; Phragmites, cordgrasses (Spar-
tina alterniflora, S. pectinata) common; SAV present)
What was there in the 1970s?
Phragmites 1000 gdw/m2
Of which 7% associated species
Smooth cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora)
800 gdw/m2
Cattail (Typha spp.) 680 gdw/m2
All 3 had less aboveground biomass at Piermont than in
other major Hudson River brackish marshes
Biomass graphs and data from Buckley & Ristich 1977
What was there in the early 1980s?
High marsh salt meadow*
*Meadows with saltmeadowcordgrass (Spartina patens), Olney
threesquare (Scirpus americanus), swamp rose mallow (Hibiscus
moscheutos), marsh straw sedge (Carex hormathodes), saltgrass
(Distichlis spicata), cattails (Typha spp.), saltmarsh fleabane (Pluchea)
Erik Kiviat photos scanned by Lisa Graichen
Fragmentation or deposition?
Tidal sweetgumswamp at south end
From Winogrond & Kiviat 1997
Phragmites cover
increased 1965 - 1991
Laba et al. 2008 from
2004 imagery
What was there in 2004?
Possible regression of
Phragmites or methodological
HRNERR 1997-2007 composite
SAV map
Wheres the SAV?
Is the sparse SAV of
1948 and 1984 gone,
or undetected by
mapping method?
Five species in
Sparkill Creek, 1984;
two E of marsh, 1948
Sparse SAV
(1948, 1984)
Small SAV beds (recent)
Are weeds other than Phragmites of concern?
Japanese knotweed on seawall and landfill at N end
Factor in change Evidence
Phragmites + Has spread and replaced other patches
Nutrient loading + Spartina vulnerable; Phragmites resistant
Salinity increase - Should help, not harm, Spartina spp.
Sediment accretion - Phragmites, S. patens, thrive in high marsh
Sea level rise,
hydrodynamic energy ?
Would have affected marsh from E to W, or
from major creeks to interior
Salt hay harvest or its
cessation +
Known to promote Phragmites replacement
of Spartina elsewhere
Pollution from landfill,
railroad, paper mill -
Would have affected marsh from N to S
Saltmarsh dieback ? Widespread phenomenon probably due to
combination of several factors
Muskrat decline ? Feeding preference: Cattail > Phragmites >
Implications of vegetation change for ecosystem
Sediment accretion and stability +
Wave attentuation +
Carbon sequestration +
Detritus food chains +?
Other non-habitat services +
Muskrat -
Bird use of marsh : shortgrass specialists
Roosting and some breeding songbirds +
Nonpasserines : some ok, some need more-open habitat -+
Terrapins : access to nesting habitat -?
Fish early life stages especially mummichog
Invertebrates : varies by taxon -+
Vascular plant diversity, especially rare plants
Places for biodiversity management
-Sweetgumswamp at south end
-Clusters of extant or historic salt meadows in south
-River edge; upland edge including edge of talus
-Major creekbanks
-Rare plant occurrences or potential to restore
These management targets are plant- and habitat-based.
Many other important species or habitats may be present.
Some needs for surveys and research:
-What is the vegetation composition and structure in the mapped
patches on the various wetland vegetation maps?
-What is the status of sweetgum, tall cordgrass (Spartina cynosuroides),
pectinate cordgrass (S. pectinata), marsh straw sedge (Carex
hormathodes), Olney threesquare (Scirpus americanus), and other
historic species?
-What is the status of the muskrat population and are muskrats
affecting the incursion of Phragmites into the salt meadows?
-What is the cover, species composition and structure of the SAV E of
Piermont Marsh and in the tidal creeks? Wigeon-grass (Ruppia), sago
pondweed (Stuckenia pectinata), etc.?
-Is native Phragmites present (e.g., along the upland edge)?
Midsummer: Marsh and Distances (Alan Gussow)