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Spartina alterniflora - Distichlis spicata Tidal Salt Marsh
Translated Name: Smooth Cordgrass - Saltgrass Tidal Salt Marsh
Common Name: Mid-Atlantic Low Salt Marsh
Unique Identifier: CEGL006586
Classification Approach: International Vegetation Classification (IVC)
Summary: This association of the mid-Atlantic represents low salt marsh vegetation dominated by the "short form" of Spartina alterniflora and Distichlis spicata, although the latter species may be somewhat less abundant. Most occurrences of this community type are located in nonriverine, mesohaline marshes subject to regular, diurnal tides. Diversity is exceedingly low. Some stands may be codominated by Spartina patens. Other associates may include Limonium carolinianum, Solidago sempervirens, and occasional succulents, including Salicornia virginica, Salicornia bigelovii, Suaeda linearis, and Sarcocornia perennis.



Classification

Classification Confidence: Moderate
Classification Comments: Stands of this vegetation generally occupy lower landscape positions than the typically adjacent high marsh represented by Spartina patens - Distichlis spicata - (Juncus roemerianus) Salt Marsh (CEGL004197) and are usually flooded daily. Salt pannes dominated by Salicornia (virginica, bigelovii, maritima) - Spartina alterniflora Salt Marsh (CEGL004308) may form at intermediate landscape positions, where salt concentrations are higher due to evaporation between less regular episodes of inundation, and hence halophytic forbs attain greater importance. This type is documented by 11 vegetation plots and numerous National Park Service Accuracy Assessment points from Virginia and Maryland.

Vegetation Hierarchy
Class 2 - Shrub & Herb Vegetation
Subclass 2.C - Shrub & Herb Wetland
Formation 2.C.5 - Salt Marsh
Division 2.C.5.Nb - North American Atlantic & Gulf Coastal Salt Marsh
Macrogroup North American Atlantic & Gulf Coastal Salt Marsh
Group Atlantic & Gulf Coastal Low Salt Marsh
Alliance Smooth Cordgrass Low Salt Marsh

This is the revised vegetation hierarchy. For more information see Classification Sources and usnvc.org.

Similar Associations
Unique Identifier Name
CEGL004192 Spartina alterniflora / (Ascophyllum nodosum) Acadian/Virginian Zone Salt Marsh
CEGL004197 Spartina patens - Distichlis spicata - (Juncus roemerianus) Salt Marsh
CEGL004308 Salicornia (virginica, bigelovii, maritima) - Spartina alterniflora Salt Marsh



Related Concepts from Other Classifications

Other Related Concepts
Related Concept Name: Spartina alterniflora - Distichlis spicata Tidal Herbaceous Vegetation
Relationship: = - Equivalent
Reference: Fleming, G. P., K. Taverna, and P. P. Coulling. 2007b. Vegetation classification for the National Capitol Region parks, eastern region. Regional (VA-MD-DC) analysis prepared for NatureServe and USGS-NPS Vegetation Mapping Program, March 2007. Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage, Richmond.
Related Concept Name: Salt marsh
Relationship: B - Broader
Reference: Higgins, E. A. T., R. D. Rappleye, and R. G. Brown. 1971. The flora and ecology of Assateague Island. University of Maryland Experiment Station Bulletin A-172. 70 pp.
Related Concept Name: Salt marsh community
Relationship: B - Broader
Reference: Hill, S. R. 1986. An annotated checklist of the vascular flora of Assateague Island (Maryland and Virginia). Castanea 5:265-305.
Related Concept Name: Tidal Mesohaline / Polyhaline Marsh
Relationship: B - Broader
Reference: Fleming, G. P., P. P. Coulling, D. P. Walton, K. M. McCoy, and M. R. Parrish. 2001. The natural communities of Virginia: Classification of ecological community groups. First approximation. Natural Heritage Technical Report 01-1. Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage, Richmond, VA. 76 pp.

Ecological Systems Placement

Ecological Systems Placement
Ecological System Unique ID Ecological System Name
CES203.519 Northern Atlantic Coastal Plain Tidal Salt Marsh


NatureServe Conservation Status
Global Status: GNR (02Jun2007)
Rounded Global Status: GNR - Not Yet Ranked

Distribution
Color legend for Distribution Map
United States Distribution: DE, MD, NJpotentially occurs, VA
Global Distribution: United States
Global Range: This association has been documented from several, chiefly non-riverine sites on the eastern and western shores of the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland and Virginia, as well as on the Delaware Bay. It may also occur in New Jersey, but further inventory is required to confirm this.

U.S. Forest Service Ecoregions
Domain Name: Humid Temperate Domain
Division Name: Subtropical Division
Province Name: Outer Coastal Plain Mixed Forest Province
Province Code: 232 Occurrence Status: Confident or certain
Section Name: Middle Atlantic Coastal Plain Section
Section Code: 232A Occurrence Status: Confident or certain
Section Name: Coastal Plains and Flatwoods, Lower Section
Section Code: 232B Occurrence Status: Confident or certain
Section Name: Atlantic Coastal Flatwoods Section
Section Code: 232C Occurrence Status: Confident or certain


Vegetation

Vegetation Summary: This community is dominated by short-statured Spartina alterniflora, generally much less than 1 m in height; Distichlis spicata is a constant and typically codominant associate. Spartina patens may attain moderate to high cover in some stands. Infrequent components of this vegetation include Limonium carolinianum, Schoenoplectus pungens, Iva frutescens, Juncus roemerianus, Kosteletzkya virginica, Pluchea odorata and Salicornia virginica. Species richness is very low, with an average of five species per 100 square meters.

Vegetation Composition (incomplete)
Species Name Rounded Global Status Growth Form Stratum Charact-
eristic
Dominant Constant
Cover Class %
Con-
stancy
%
Distichlis spicata GNR Graminoid Herb (field)
 
 
Spartina alterniflora GNR Graminoid Herb (field)
 
 


Environmental Setting

Wetland Indicator: Y
Environmental Summary: Stands of this vegetation are located in mesohaline (5-18 ppt salinity), chiefly non-riverine marshes subject to regular, diurnal tides. The substrate typically consists of extremely dense, often firm, fibric peat rich in fine roots and rhizomes. This vegetation is documented from large estuaries that are somewhat more sheltered from storm overwash than similar vegetation of barrier island marshes.


Dynamic Processes

Dynamics: As elevation increases slightly toward the interior of marshes, this community grades into high marsh consisting of Spartina patens - Distichlis spicata - (Juncus roemerianus) Salt Marsh (CEGL004197). At lower landscape positions with a longer hydroperiod, low marsh dominated by taller culms of Spartina alterniflora prevails, represented by Spartina alterniflora / (Ascophyllum nodosum) Acadian/Virginian Zone Salt Marsh (CEGL004192). Grazing and trampling by wild ponies at Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge may contribute to the short stature of Spartina alterniflora on this island. This community also frequently co-occurs with salt flat vegetation dominated by Salicornia spp. (CEGL004308), and may replace the latter in succession as depressions are filled with new sediments.


Plot Sampling & Classification Analysis

Plots stored in VegBank


Authors/Contributors
Concept Author(s): P.P. Coulling
Element Description Edition Date: 06Sep2013
Element Description Author(s): P.P. Coulling, S.C. Gawler and L.A. Sneddon

Ecological data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs) and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).


References
  • Coulling, P. P. 2002. A preliminary classification of tidal marsh, shrub swamp, and hardwood swamp vegetation and assorted non-tidal, chiefly non-maritime, herbaceous wetland communities of the Virginia Coastal Plain. October 2002. Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage. Natural Heritage Technical Report 02-18. 30 pp.

  • Eastern Ecology Working Group of NatureServe. No date. International Ecological Classification Standard: International Vegetation Classification. Terrestrial Vegetation. NatureServe, Boston, MA.

  • Fleming, G. P., K. Taverna, and P. P. Coulling. 2007b. Vegetation classification for the National Capitol Region parks, eastern region. Regional (VA-MD-DC) analysis prepared for NatureServe and USGS-NPS Vegetation Mapping Program, March 2007. Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage, Richmond.

  • Fleming, G. P., P. P. Coulling, D. P. Walton, K. M. McCoy, and M. R. Parrish. 2001. The natural communities of Virginia: Classification of ecological community groups. First approximation. Natural Heritage Technical Report 01-1. Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage, Richmond, VA. 76 pp.

  • Fleming, G. P., and K. D. Patterson. 2003. Preliminary vegetation classification for the National Capitol Region parks. Regional (VA-WVA-MD-DC) analysis prepared for NatureServe and USGS-NPS Vegetation Mapping Program, March 2003. Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage, Richmond.

  • Fleming, G. P., and K. D. Patterson. 2011a. Natural communities of Virginia: Ecological groups and community types. Natural Heritage Technical Report 11-07. Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage, Richmond. 34 pp.

  • Higgins, E. A. T., R. D. Rappleye, and R. G. Brown. 1971. The flora and ecology of Assateague Island. University of Maryland Experiment Station Bulletin A-172. 70 pp.

  • Hill, S. R. 1986. An annotated checklist of the vascular flora of Assateague Island (Maryland and Virginia). Castanea 5:265-305.

  • NatureServe. 2009. Vegetation of the E.B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge. International Ecological Classification Standard: Terrestrial Ecological Classifications. NatureServe Central Databases. Arlington, VA. U.S.A. Data current as of 1 December 2009.

  • Patterson, K. D. 2008c. Vegetation classification and mapping at Colonial National Historical Park, Virginia. Technical Report NPS/NER/NRTR--2008/129. National Park Service, Philadelphia, PA. 369 pp.

  • Patterson, K. D. 2008d. Vegetation classification and mapping at George Washington Birthplace National Monument, Virginia. Technical Report NPS/NER/NRTR--2008/099. National Park Service, Philadelphia, PA. 231 pp.

  • TNC [The Nature Conservancy]. 1995c. NBS/NPS Vegetation Mapping Program: Vegetation classification of Assateague Island National Seashore. Unpublished report. The Nature Conservancy, Eastern Regional Office, Boston, MA.


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