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Tidal Wetlands Primer

Tidal Wetlands Primer: An Introduction to Their Ecology, Natural History, Status, and Conservation

Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 536
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  • Book Info
    Tidal Wetlands Primer
    Book Description:

    At a time when more than half of the U.S. population lives within fifty miles of the coast, tidal wetlands are a critical and threatened natural resource. The purpose of this book is to introduce the world of tidal wetlands to students and professionals in the environmental fields and others with an interest in the subject. Illustrated with maps, photographs, and diagrams, this volume provides a clear account of the factors that make these habitats unique and vulnerable. It discusses their formation, the conditions affecting their plant and animal life, and the diversity of types across North America, as well as their history, use by wildlife and humans, current status, conservation, restoration, and likely future. The emphasis is on vegetated wetlands—marshes and swamps—with additional discussion of eelgrass meadows, rocky shores, beaches, and tidal flats. Ralph Tiner’s previous field guides to coastal wetland plants in the Northeast and Southeast have been widely praised. Tidal Wetlands Primer joins Tiner’s earlier publications as an authoritative and userfriendly guide that should appeal to anyone with a serious interest in coastal habitats.

    eISBN: 978-1-61376-274-5
    Subjects: Botany & Plant Sciences, Environmental Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-xii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
    John M. Teal

    Why do we care about tidal wetlands? What is the future of salt marshes? How many kinds of tidal wetlands are there? Ralph Tiner introduces us to their ecology and leads us through a fascinating history, including a time when most people thought of wetlands as nuisances and wastelands. Salt marshes blocked access to the shore. So what to do? Fill them in, dredge them out, or drain them. Boston’s Back Bay was built on filled salt marshes. There are salt marshes along the Long Island and Jersey shores that have been dredged and filled and covered with houses. Marshes...

  4. Preface
    (pp. xv-xviii)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xix-xx)
  6. Purpose and Organization of the Book
    (pp. xxi-xxvi)
  7. 1 Definitions and Classification of Tidal Wetlands and Estuaries
    (pp. 1-22)

    Tidal wetlands are saline and freshwater marshes, swamps, banks, and shores subjected to flooding by tides. They are mainly low-lying, relatively flat plains formed by deposition of river-carried (fluvial) and/or marine sediments. They also include gently sloping beaches and other sloping landforms in areas with large tide ranges. Some are intertidal shorelines at the base of cliffs formed on material eroded from the cliffs. Tidal wetlands may cover vast areas that are miles wide or be limited to narrow, fringing bands only a few feet or meters wide. Regardless of their origin, their location beside oceans, estuaries, and tidal rivers...

  8. 2 Origin and Formation of Tidal Wetlands
    (pp. 23-45)

    Low-relief landscapes such as coastal plains favor the development of extensive coastal wetlands as such lands are more likely to be flooded than are steeper lands where mountains meet the sea. The latter regions may have narrow, steep continental shelves and may lack sufficient sediments for significant tidal wetland formation. Vast wetlands may also be found in macrotidal regions where huge tides expose extensive mudflats at low tide (e.g., the Bay of Fundy and Alaska).

    Tidal wetlands commonly form in three basic locations: 1) along the ocean and its embayments; 2) in estuaries; and 3) along tidal reaches of freshwater...

  9. 3 The Dynamic Intertidal Environment
    (pp. 46-76)

    The intertidal zone is a unique environment where conditions fluctuate between aquatic habitat and semiterrestrial habitat as frequently as twice daily and for most tidal wetlands at least a few times a month. A variable pattern of often sinuous creeks typify the landscape of many tidal wetlands and serve as conduits for the tides to bring water, sediments, and nutrients into and out of coastal marshes. Such creeks provide transient marine and estuarine nekton (fishes and aquatic invertebrates) access to the marsh interior as well. Tidal wetlands fluctuate between aquatic habitat when inundated and semiterrestrial habitat when exposed. As such...

  10. 4 Plant Response to the Tidal Environment
    (pp. 77-122)

    Tidal wetlands are subject to natural forces and human actions. From an organism’s standpoint, the intertidal environment is rigorous, harsh, and characterized by fluctuating conditions. Tides ebb and flow exposing and then rewetting substrates; salinities vary with tides, precipitation, and river discharges; temperatures change seasonally, daily, and hourly; and the vagaries of weather all create unique conditions and challenges for both plant and animal life. Although many animals can move in and out of wetlands, occupying them at favorable times, plants do not have such freedom. Once established, plants must cope with the physical stresses posed by the intertidal environment,...

  11. 5 Tidal Wetland Types and Their Vegetation
    (pp. 123-173)

    Many types of tidal wetlands occur across North America from the edge of the ocean to a point where tidal action ceases in coastal rivers (Figure 5.1). Tidal wetlands include both vegetated and nonvegetated types. The latter occur either at lower elevations in the intertidal zone or above mean high tide in regions where salts accumulate and raise soil salinities well above sea strength to levels that prevent colonization by macrophytic plants. Tidal wetlands can be classified in numerous ways based on a wide range of properties (see Chapter 1). For this chapter, I have divided them into types based...

  12. 6 Tidal Wetlands as Wildlife Habitat
    (pp. 174-210)

    Like plants, animals have adapted to the rigors of the tidal wetland environment. Resident sessile animals have to cope with whatever the environment brings their way. They must develop adaptations to flooding, varying salinities, alternating wetting and drying, temperature changes, and oxygen deficits (e.g., Levin and Talley 2000). Most wetland animals are mobile and can usually avoid undesirable conditions, returning when conditions improve. Some animals may visit these wetlands seasonally, at favorable tide conditions for food, for protection from predators, or to avoid adverse weather conditions (coastal storms). Most birds common to northern wetlands migrate south to avoid harsh winters....

  13. 7 Functions and Values of Tidal Wetlands
    (pp. 211-245)

    Today tidal wetlands are universally regarded as valuable natural resources by scientists, and most North Americans probably share this view. Wetlands are the vital link between land and water, a location that endows them with many properties that support fish and wildlife and produce many services that benefit people. Tidal wetlands can be among the world’s most productive natural ecosystems. Wetlands temporarily store potentially harmful floodwaters, buffer and stabilize shorelines, help cleanse natural waters, reduce siltation in navigable waters, and yield natural products for human use and consumption, all while providing vital fish and wildlife habitat. This is a win-win...

  14. 8 Extent, Threats, and Human Uses of North American Tidal Wetlands
    (pp. 246-292)

    Tidal wetlands are located along the shores of oceans, estuaries, and coastal rivers worldwide. Their current extent has been shaped by natural processes and greatly modified by human development. This chapter introduces the distribution of estuarine wetlands globally and in much of North America (excluding northern Canada), describes the current status of tidal wetlands in this region, and examines common threats and historic trends in various subregions. The probable future of the region’s tidal wetlands is addressed in the last (Chapter 12).

    Worldwide, salt marshes typically occur above 25º latitude in the northern and southern hemispheres, while mangrove swamps (“mangals”)...

  15. 9 Tidal Wetland Conservation and Management
    (pp. 293-329)

    After more than two centuries of being considered wastelands and sites in need of “reclamation,” wetlands are now recognized as valuable natural resources that must be conserved. Wetland conservation involves a combination of efforts that result in protecting, enhancing, restoring, and creating wetlands. Tidal wetlands were the first wetlands to receive protection through state regulations. Since the 1950s and 1960s, the status of coastal wetlands in the United States has greatly improved due to environmental laws, regulations, policies, expanded wetland acquisition, increased public awareness and participation in conservation, and more recently to wetland restoration initiatives (see Table 9.1 for timeline...

  16. 10 Wetland Identification, Mapping, Delineation, and Functional Assessment
    (pp. 330-352)

    Wetland identification and delineation are essential parts of wetland regulations because they establish the limits of governmental jurisdiction. Once a wetland is identified on a property and targeted for alteration, an assessment of wetland functions is often required to determine lost functions and appropriate mitigation—to insure no-net-loss of functions. Assessment techniques vary depending on the scale of interest—landscape-level to project-area evaluation. The former is usually done to aid in watershed, countywide or townwide planning, or to gain perspective on the significance of a project’s impacts on a larger area. Site-specific procedures address project impacts to a particular wetland...

  17. 11 Tidal Wetland Restoration, Creation, and Monitoring
    (pp. 353-386)

    Over the past 25 years, much has been learned about wetland restoration and creation (e.g., Kusler and Kentula 1990; National Research Council 1992, 1994, 2001; Zedler 2000, 2006; Teal and Peterson 2005; Falk et al. 2006; Mitsch 2006). Wetland regulations and government regulatory programs are largely responsible for promoting wetland restoration and creation as compensation for permitted wetland losses (see Mitigation in Chapter 9). Monitoring of mitigation projects has been performed to determine compliance with permit requirements. Many government agencies have also initiated proactive wetland restoration programs independent of the regulatory process to simply restore wetlands because they provide valued...

  18. 12 The Future of Tidal Wetlands
    (pp. 387-416)

    Great progress has been made since the mid-1960s to control direct human impacts to coastal wetlands in the United States; and more recently, similar efforts by certain Canadian provinces have helped reduce salt marsh destruction from human activities. Various levels of government in the United States and Canada have enacted laws or policies to protect tidal wetlands to some degree, and the quality of many tidal wetlands has increased through restoration efforts by government agencies and private organizations. While these types of programs and policies have greatly improved the status of coastal wetlands over what they were prior to the...

  19. Appendix A. List of North American Wetlands of International Importance: Tidal Wetlands
    (pp. 417-420)
  20. Appendix B. Profiles of Some Tidal Wetland Restoration Projects on the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts of the United States
    (pp. 421-426)
  21. References
    (pp. 427-502)
  22. Index
    (pp. 503-508)
  23. Back Matter
    (pp. 509-512)