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Classification
Scientific Name: Temperate Pacific Tidal Salt and Brackish Marsh
Unique Identifier: CES200.091
Classification Confidence: 1 - Strong

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Summary: Intertidal salt and brackish marshes are found throughout the Pacific coast, from Kodiak Island and south-central Alaska to the central California coast. They are primarily associated with estuaries or coastal lagoons. Salt marshes are limited to bays and behind sand spits or other locations protected from wave action. Typically these areas form with a mixture of inputs from freshwater sources into coastal saltwater, so they commonly co-occur with brackish marshes. This is a small-patch system, confined to specific environments defined by ranges of salinity, tidal inundation regime, and soil texture. Patches usually occur as zonal mosaics of multiple communities. They vary in location and abundance with daily and seasonal dynamics of freshwater input from inland balanced against evaporation and tidal flooding of saltwater. Summer-dry periods result in decreased freshwater inputs from inland. Hypersaline environments within salt marshes occur in "salt pans" where tidal water collects and evaporates. Characteristic plant species include Distichlis spicata, Limonium californicum, Jaumea carnosa, Salicornia spp., Suaeda spp., and Triglochin spp. Low marshes are located in areas that flood every day and are dominated by a variety of low-growing forbs and low to medium-height graminoids, especially Salicornia depressa, Distichlis spicata, Bolboschoenus maritimus, Schoenoplectus americanus, Carex lyngbyei, and Triglochin maritima. In Alaska, tidal marshes are often dominated by near-monotypic stands of Carex lyngbyei, while the frequently inundated lower salt marshes are often dominated by Eleocharis palustris or Puccinellia spp. Other common species in Alaska include Hippuris tetraphylla, Plantago maritima, Cochlearia groenlandica, Spergularia canadensis, Honckenya peploides, or Glaux maritima. In the Cook Inlet and Alaska Peninsula, Carex ramenskii may be an associated species. High marshes are located in areas that flood infrequently and are dominated by medium-tall graminoids and low forbs, especially Deschampsia cespitosa, Argentina egedii, Juncus arcticus ssp. littoralis, and Symphyotrichum subspicatum, and in Alaska Poa eminens, Argentina egedii, Festuca rubra, and Deschampsia cespitosa. Transition zone (slightly brackish) marshes are often dominated by Typha spp. or Schoenoplectus acutus. Atriplex prostrata, Juncus mexicanus, Phragmites spp., Cordylanthus spp., and Lilaeopsis masonii are important species in California. The invasive weed Lepidium latifolium is a problem in many of these marshes. Rare plant species include Cordylanthus maritimus ssp. maritimus.

Classification Approach: International Terrestrial Ecological Systems Classification (ITESC)

Classification Comments: Discussions with John Christy and Todd Keeler-Wolf led to lumping all West Coast salt and brackish marshes into one system because they co-occur so intimately and frequently, are not readily distinguished without detailed on-the-ground surveys, and are totally intergraded (seemingly continuous variation) in terms of degree of salinity and resulting vegetation. This system encompasses a very large geographic range. We may want to split it into two types, on a north-south gradient. However, the species composition and environmental settings of tidal marshes throughout the temperate Pacific region are markedly similar. Where to make a split that would make sense biogeographically is hard to determine. For now, they are maintained as one ecological system.

Component Associations
Association Unique ID Association Name
CEGL003123 Salicornia (bigelovii, depressa) Tidal Salt Marsh
CEGL003285 Carex lyngbyei - (Distichlis spicata, Triglochin maritima) Salt Marsh
CEGL003286 Glaux maritima Salt Marsh
CEGL003287 Bolboschoenus maritimus Tidal Salt Marsh
CEGL003288 Argentina egedii - Symphyotrichum subspicatum Salt Marsh
CEGL003289 Carex lyngbyei - Argentina egedii Salt Marsh
CEGL003356 Distichlis spicata - (Salicornia depressa) Salt Marsh
CEGL003357 Deschampsia cespitosa - (Carex lyngbyei, Distichlis spicata) Salt Marsh
CEGL003366 Salicornia depressa - Distichlis spicata - Triglochin maritima - (Jaumea carnosa) Salt Marsh
CEGL003367 Schoenoplectus (americanus, pungens) Tidal Salt Marsh
CEGL003369 Carex lyngbyei Salt Marsh
CEGL003381 Triglochin maritima - (Salicornia depressa) Salt Marsh
CEGL003382 Argentina egedii - Juncus arcticus ssp. littoralis Salt Marsh
CEGL003383 Deschampsia cespitosa - Argentina egedii Salt Marsh
CEGL003384 Deschampsia cespitosa - Sidalcea hendersonii Salt Marsh
CEGL003421 Calamagrostis nutkaensis - Argentina egedii - Juncus arcticus ssp. littoralis Salt Marsh
CEGL003424 Festuca rubra - (Argentina egedii) Salt Marsh
CEGL003462 Distichlis spicata - Frankenia salina - Jaumea carnosa Salt Marsh



Classifiers

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

Diagnostic Classifiers
Primary Classifier Secondary Classifier
Temperate Temperate Hyperoceanic
Temperate Temperate Oceanic
Tidal / Estuarine Haline
Tidal / Estuarine Oligohaline
Saline Water Chemistry  
30-180-day hydroperiod  

At-Risk Species Reported for this Ecological System
Scientific Name
  (Common Name)
NatureServe Global Status U.S. Endangered Species Act Status
Cordylanthus maritimus ssp. maritimus
  (Saltmarsh Bird's-beak)
G4?T1 LE: Listed endangered
Cordylanthus maritimus ssp. palustris
  (Pt. Reyes Bird's-beak)
G4?T2  
Hesperevax sparsiflora var. brevifolia
  (Seaside Evax)
G4T3  
Lilaeopsis masonii
  (Mason's Lilaeopsis)
G2  
Rallus obsoletus
  (Ridgway's Rail)
G1 LE: Listed endangered
Reithrodontomys raviventris
  (Salt-marsh Harvest Mouse)
G1G2 LE: Listed endangered

Vegetation Composition (incomplete)
Species Name Rounded Global Status Growth Form Stratum Char-
acter-
istic
Domi-nant Con-stant
Cover Class %
Con-
stancy
%
Argentina egedii G5 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Cordylanthus maritimus ssp. maritimus T1 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Cordylanthus maritimus ssp. palustris T2 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Hesperevax sparsiflora var. brevifolia T3 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Plantago maritima G5 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Symphyotrichum subspicatum G5 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Salicornia depressa GNR Succulent forb Herb (field)  
 
 
Bolboschoenus maritimus G5 Graminoid Herb (field)  
 
 
Carex lyngbyei G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    
 
 
Deschampsia caespitosa G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    
 
 
Distichlis spicata G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    
 
 
Eleocharis palustris G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    
 
 
Festuca rubra G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    
 
 
Juncus balticus var. littoralis T5 Graminoid Herb (field)    
 
 
Poa eminens G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    
 
 
Puccinellia nutkaensis G4 Graminoid Herb (field)    
 
 
Schoenoplectus acutus G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    
 
 
Schoenoplectus americanus G5 Graminoid Herb (field)  
 
 
Triglochin maritima 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
Cistothorus palustris
  (Marsh Wren)
G5      
Microtus californicus
  (California Vole)
G5      
Passerculus sandwichensis
  (Savannah Sparrow)
G5      
Rallus obsoletus
  (Ridgway's Rail)
G1 LE: Listed endangered    
Reithrodontomys raviventris
  (Salt-marsh Harvest Mouse)
G1G2 LE: Listed endangered    
Vison vison
  (American Mink)
G5      


Distribution
Color legend for Distribution Map
Nation: United States
United States Distribution: AK, CA, OR, WA
Nation: Canada
Canadian Province Distribution: BC
Distribution Outside Canada and the United States: Mexico
Global Range: This system is found throughout the Pacific coast, from Kodiak Island and south-central Alaska to the California coast.

Biogeographic Divisions
Division Code and Name Primary Occurrence Status
204-North American Pacific Maritime C: Confident or certain

The Nature Conservancy's Conservation Ecoregions
Code Name Occurrence Status
1 Pacific Northwest Coast Confident or certain
14 California North Coast Confident or certain
15 California Central Coast Confident or certain
16 California South Coast Confident or certain
2 Puget Trough - Willamette Valley - Georgia Basin Confident or certain
3 North Cascades Confident or certain
69 S.E. Alaska - B.C. Coastal Forest and Mountains Confident or certain
70 Gulf of Alaska Mountains and Fjordlands Confident or certain
71 Cook Inlet Basin Confident or certain

MRLC 2000 Mapzones
Code Name Occurrence Status
1 Northern Cascades Confident or certain
2 Oregon Coastal Range Confident or certain
3 Northern California Coastal Range Confident or certain
4 Southern California Coastal Range Confident or certain
75 Cook Inlet Confident or certain
76 Southwest Alaska Confident or certain
77 Prince William Confident or certain
78 Southeast Alaska Confident or certain

National Mapping
ESLF Code (Ecological System Lifeform): 9281
ESP Code (Environmental Site Potential): 1668
EVT Code (Existing Vegetation Type): 2668

West Landfire Legend: Yes
East Landfire Legend: No

Authors/Contributors
Element Description Edition Date: 14Jan2014
Element Description Author(s): K. Boggs, C. Chappell, G. Kittel, T. Keeler-Wolf and M.S. Reid

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


References
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  • Boggs, K. 2002. Terrestrial ecological systems for the Cook Inlet, Bristol Bay, and Alaska Peninsula ecoregions. The Nature Conservancy, Anchorage, AK.

  • Chappell, C., and J. Christy. 2004. Willamette Valley-Puget Trough-Georgia Basin Ecoregion Terrestrial Ecological System EO Specs and EO Rank Specs. Appendix 11 in: J. Floberg, M. Goering, G. Wilhere, C. MacDonald, C. Chappell, C. Rumsey, Z. Ferdana, A. Holt, P. Skidmore, T. Horsman, E. Alverson, C. Tanner, M. Bryer, P. Lachetti, A. Harcombe, B. McDonald, T. Cook, M. Summers, and D. Rolph. Willamette Valley-Puget Trough-Georgia Basin Ecoregional Assessment, Volume One: Report prepared by The Nature Conservancy with support from The Nature Conservancy of Canada, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Washington Department of Natural Resources (Natural Heritage and Nearshore Habitat programs), Oregon State Natural Heritage Information Center and the British Columbia Conservation Data Centre.

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  • Littell, J. S., M. McGuire Elsner, L. C. Whitely Binder, and A. K. Snover, editors. 2009. The Washington climate change impacts assessment: Evaluating Washington's future in a changing climate. Executive summary. Climate Impacts Group, University of Washington, Seattle. [www.cses.washington.edu/db/pdf/wacciaexecsummary638.pdf]

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  • PRBO Conservation Science. 2011. Projected effects of climate change in California: Ecoregional summaries emphasizing consequences for wildlife. Version 1.0. PRBO Conservation Science, Petaluma, CA. [http://data.prbo.org/apps/bssc/climatechange]

  • SFBCDC [San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission]. 2011. Living with a rising bay: Vulnerability and adaptation in San Francisco Bay and on its shoreline. San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission, San Francisco, CA. [http://www.bcdc.ca.gov/planning/climate_change/index_map.shtml]

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  • WNHP [Washington Natural Heritage Program]. 2011. Ecological integrity assessments for the ecological systems of Washington. Version: 2.22.2011. Washington Natural Heritage Program, Department of Natural Resources, Olympia. [http://www1.dnr.wa.gov/nhp/refdesk/communities/eia_list.html] (accessed September 9, 2013).

  • WNHP [Washington Natural Heritage Program]. 2018. Unpublished data files. Washington Natural Heritage Program, Department of Natural Resources, Olympia, WA.


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