Marsh Emergent Vegetation

 The Sanctuary in collaboration with CBNERR-MD is monitoring marsh plants as part of an effort to better understand their change over time and their responses to natural and human stressors such as storms, invasive species, land use, and climate changes.

Marsh plants are rooted plants that often grow in estuaries - areas where the rivers meet the sea. Because of this, they are influenced by salt and tides, although tidal freshwater marshes are mainly influenced by tides. Tidal marshes are flooded at high tide but dry during low tide.  How often and for how long a marsh floods is dependent on its location and elevation. Marshes close to water channels are often at lower elevations and are therefore flooded for longer periods of time than marshes located at higher elevations and farther away from the water.

Marsh salinity and flooding characteristics are what make marsh plants so unique. Marsh plants play an essential role in estuarine systems. They serve as buffer zones by reducing the energy and water movement from storms, their roots stabilize marsh sediments, they are important to reduce nutrients from the water, and also provide food, shelter, and habitat for many animals including fish, reptiles, amphibians, mammals, and birds.

Marsh plants have been surveyed at Jug Bay since 2008 by using a series of transects established at three different locations along the Patuxent River: Western Branch, Railroad Bed, and Mataponi Creek. Transects are sampled once during the growing season (in July) and provide information on species presence (diversity) and their ground cover. Other parameters also measured include number of individuals per species (density) and species maximum height.

Monitoring Objectives:
1. Better understand the impacts of human and natural stressors in marsh plant communities.
2. Promote the use of long-term monitoring data to managage and protect Jug Bay's marsh communities.
3. Promote the use of long-term monitoring for education and stewardship purposes

Volunteers are critical to the research conducted here. Click to get involved.