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Classification
Scientific Name: Atlantic Coastal Plain Embayed Region Tidal Salt and Brackish Marsh
Unique Identifier: CES203.260
Classification Confidence: 1 - Strong

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Summary: This ecological system encompasses the brackish to salt intertidal marshes of the Embayed Region of southeastern Virginia and adjacent North Carolina. It is distinguished by the extensive brackish water and tidal flooding driven by winds which are characteristic of that region. Low in plant diversity, these marshes are found on intertidal flats generally cut off from direct oceanic influence by a series of protective barrier islands. Embedded within the matrix of marshes are smaller hypersaline areas or salt pannes. Vegetation is primarily herbaceous marsh, most of it dominated by Juncus roemerianus. Areas near tidal inlets have salt marsh dominated by Spartina alterniflora. The marshes are low in plant species richness and are strongly dominated by a single plant species. Also part of the system are more limited communities such as hypersaline flats dominated by Distichlis spicata and Sarcocornia, as well as salt-tolerant shrublands and a few tree-dominated hammocks that occur on small elevated areas closely associated with the marshes.

Classification Approach: International Terrestrial Ecological Systems Classification (ITESC)

Classification Comments: This system is distinguished from the salt marsh systems to the north and south because of the characteristic hydrology of the embayed region and its implications to ecosystem dynamics. However, the species-poor vegetation is not notably different. There is some question whether the few salt marshes on near inlets on the barrier islands in this region should be considered part of this system. They have regular lunar tidal flooding and full strength saltwater, both not characteristic of most of the region. However, lunar tidal flooding is muted compared to other regions. Submerged aquatic vegetation (Ruppia, etc.) is covered under Atlantic Coastal Plain Embayed Region Seagrass Bed (CES203.243).

Similar Ecological Systems
Unique Identifier Name
CES203.243 Atlantic Coastal Plain Embayed Region Seagrass Bed
CES203.257 Atlantic Coastal Plain Indian River Lagoon Tidal Marsh
CES203.270 Southern Atlantic Coastal Plain Salt and Brackish Tidal Marsh


Component Associations
Association Unique ID Association Name
CEGL003921 Baccharis halimifolia - Iva frutescens / Panicum virgatum Saline Shrubland
CEGL003924 Borrichia frutescens / (Spartina patens, Juncus roemerianus) Saline Shrubland
CEGL004019 Phragmites australis ssp. australis Temperate Upland Ruderal Marsh
CEGL004186 Juncus roemerianus Salt Marsh
CEGL004187 Phragmites australis ssp. australis Tidal Ruderal Marsh
CEGL004188 Schoenoplectus pungens Tidal Salt Marsh
CEGL004191 Spartina alterniflora Carolinian Zone Salt Marsh
CEGL004192 Spartina alterniflora / (Ascophyllum nodosum) Acadian/Virginian Zone Salt Marsh
CEGL004197 Spartina patens - Distichlis spicata - (Juncus roemerianus) Salt Marsh
CEGL004308 Salicornia (depressa, bigelovii, maritima) - Spartina alterniflora Salt Marsh
CEGL004473 Sagittaria subulata - Limosella australis Tidal Marsh
CEGL006352 Eriocaulon parkeri - Polygonum punctatum Tidal Marsh
CEGL007813 Juniperus virginiana var. silicicola - (Quercus virginiana, Sabal palmetto) Forest



Classifiers

Land Cover Class: Herbaceous Wetland
Spatial Pattern: Large patch
Natural/Seminatural: No
Vegetated ( > 10% vascular cover):
Upland: No
Wetland: Yes
Isolated Wetland: No

Diagnostic Classifiers
Primary Classifier Secondary Classifier
Tidal / Estuarine Haline
Graminoid  

Non-diagnostic Classifiers
Primary Classifier Secondary Classifier
Herbaceous  

At-Risk Species Reported for this Ecological System
Scientific Name
  (Common Name)
NatureServe Global Status U.S. Endangered Species Act Status
Antigone canadensis pratensis
  (Florida Sandhill Crane)
G5T2  
Balduina atropurpurea
  (Purple Balduina)
G2  
Lampropeltis getula sticticeps
  (Outer Banks Kingsnake)
G5T2Q  
Peromyscus leucopus buxtoni
  (White-footed Deermouse - Buxton Woods)
G5T1  
Trichostema sp. 1
  (Dune Bluecurls)
G2  

Vegetation Composition (incomplete)
Species Name Rounded Global Status Growth Form Stratum Char-
acter-
istic
Domi-nant Con-stant
Cover Class %
Con-
stancy
%
Baccharis halimifolia G5 Broad-leaved evergreen shrub Shrub/sapling (tall & short)    
 
 
Borrichia frutescens G5 Dwarf-shrub Short shrub/sapling    
 
 
Balduina atropurpurea G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Trichostema sp. 1 G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Distichlis spicata G5 Graminoid Herb (field)  
 
 
Juncus roemerianus G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    
 
 
Phragmites australis G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    
 
 
Spartina alterniflora G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    
 
 


Animal Species Reported for this Ecological System
Scientific Name
  (Common Name)
Global Status U.S. Endangered Species Act Status Charact-
eristic
Exotic
Antigone canadensis pratensis
  (Florida Sandhill Crane)
G5T2      
Lampropeltis getula sticticeps
  (Outer Banks Kingsnake)
G5T2Q      
Malaclemys terrapin
  (Diamond-backed Terrapin)
G4      
Oryzomys palustris
  (Marsh Rice Rat)
G5      
Peromyscus leucopus buxtoni
  (White-footed Deermouse - Buxton Woods)
G5T1      


Distribution
Color legend for Distribution Map
Nation: United States
United States Distribution: NC, VA
Global Range: Endemic to southeastern Virginia and adjacent North Carolina.

Biogeographic Divisions
Division Code and Name Primary Occurrence Status
203-Gulf and Atlantic Coastal Plain C: Confident or certain

The Nature Conservancy's Conservation Ecoregions
Code Name Occurrence Status
57 Mid-Atlantic Coastal Plain Confident or certain

MRLC 2000 Mapzones
Code Name Occurrence Status
58 Eastern Coastal Plain Confident or certain
60 Chesapeake Bay Confident or certain
61 Northern Appalachia Never was there

National Mapping
ESLF Code (Ecological System Lifeform): 9261

West Landfire Legend: No
East Landfire Legend: No

Authors/Contributors
Element Description Edition Date: 22May2014
Element Description Author(s): R. Evans, M. Schafale, G. Fleming

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


References
  • Bertness, M., B. R. Silliman, and R. Jefferies. 2004. Salt marshes under siege: Agricultural practices, land development and overharvesting of the seas explain complex ecological cascades that threaten our shorelines. American Scientist 92:54-61.

  • Comer, P., D. Faber-Langendoen, R. Evans, S. Gawler, C. Josse, G. Kittel, S. Menard, C. Nordman, M. Pyne, M. Reid, M. Russo, K. Schulz, K. Snow, J. Teague, and R. White. 2003-present. Ecological systems of the United States: A working classification of U.S. terrestrial systems. NatureServe, Arlington, VA.

  • Eyre, F. H., editor. 1980. Forest cover types of the United States and Canada. Society of American Foresters, Washington, DC. 148 pp.

  • Hackney, C. T., and W. J. Cleary. 1987. Saltmarsh loss in southeastern North Carolina lagoons: Importance of sea level rise and inlet dredging. Journal of Coastal Research 3(1):93-97.

  • Langley, J. A., K. L. McKee, D. R. Cahoon, J. A. Cherry, and J. P. Megonigal. 2009. Elevated CO2 stimulates marsh elevation gain, counterbalancing sea-level rise. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 106(15):6182-6186. [http://www.pnas.org/content/106/15/6182.full]

  • Schafale, M. P. 2012. Classification of the natural communities of North Carolina, 4th Approximation. North Carolina Department of Environment, Health, and Natural Resources, Division of Parks and Recreation, Natural Heritage Program, Raleigh.

  • Silliman, B. R., and M. D. Bertness. 2002. A trophic cascade regulates salt marsh primary production. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA) 99:10500-10505.


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