Payne, A.R.; Burdick, D.M.; Moore, G.E., and Wigand C., . Short-term effects of thin-layer sand placement on salt marsh grasses: A marsh organ field experiment.
Salt marshes can build in elevation with sea-level rise through accumulation of inorganic sediment and organic matter, but marshes worldwide are under threat of drowning due to rapid rates of sea-level rise that outpace natural marsh building rates. The application of a thin layer of sediment to the marsh surface (thin-layer placement [TLP]) is a tool to build elevation and decrease flooding stress, but its effects on marsh plants are understudied, especially in New England. In a novel application of a marsh organ experiment (i.e. rows of pots at different elevations), the addition of 10 cm of sand to pots planted with Spartina alterniflora and Spartina patens resulted in fewer stems than controls for S. patens but not S. alterniflora after 2 months. However, total biomass and root mass were not significantly impacted for either species, suggesting plants will fully recover from TLP over longer timescales. Effects of TLP on biomass and stem density did not vary significantly by elevation. Although long-term research is still needed, short-term equivalency in biomass between TLP treatments and controls suggests TLP of 10 cm is a promising strategy to enhance the ability of marshes to build vertically as sea level rises in New England.