Abstract

The York River has nine tidal wetland community types that are distributed along gradients of salinity and tidal inundation. These range from the Saltmarsh Cordgrass community dominated by Spartina alterniflora to the Tidal Freshwater Mixed community that can have over 50 species in one marsh. These tidal marshes provide a number of important functions and values to the estuarine systems including: high primary productivity, important habitat value, erosion buffering and filtering capacity useful for trapping sediments, pollutants and nutrients. The tidal marsh communities within the four Chesapeake Bay Virginia National Estuarine Research Reserve sites are situated along the York system in polyhaline, mesohaline, oligohaline and freshwater salinity regimes. They are largely pristine vegetation communities and have been documented to have abundant fauna characteristic of their individual community types. Changes in the vegetation communities of each site have been documented over time; however more research is needed on the potential effects of projected sea level rise on these habitats and the roles of watershed sedimentation and nutrient enrichment, vegetation succession, and invasive species on the persistence and value of these tidal marsh areas.

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