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MONITORING SALT MARSH VEGETATION AND NEKTON AT GEORGE WASHINGTON BIRTHPLACE NATIONAL MONUMENT -- 2010 Summary Report
Natural Resource Data Series NPS/NCBN/NRDS—2011/133

Erika L. Patenaude
Penelope S. Pooler
National Park Service
Northeast Coastal and Barrier Network
University of Rhode Island
1 Greenhouse Rd
Kingston, RI 02881

January 2011

U.S. Department of the Interior
National Park Service
Natural Resource Program Center
Fort Collins, Colorado

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Executive Summary

The Northeast Coastal and Barrier Network (NCBN) is one of 32 networks of parks created by the National Park Service (NPS) Inventory and Monitoring Program (I&M Program). The I&M Program has two components, 1) to collect baseline ecological inventory datasets and 2) to implement Vital Signs monitoring, a long-term ecological monitoring program, in each of the 32 networks. The Northeast Coastal and Barrier Network consists of eight parks linked by geography and shared ecological characteristics along the Northeastern Atlantic Coast. As part o the I&M Program, each network has developed detailed protocols for monitoring a select number of Vital Signs, or ecological indicators. Because the majority of parks in the NCBN are coastal parks, salt marsh monitoring was chosen as a high priority and protocols were developed for collecting long-term data on salt marsh vegetation and nekton (James-Pirri and Roman In Review-a,b). The objective of monitoring vegetation and nekton is to identify long-term trends in community structure, and to provide resource managers with a better understanding of the current status and condition of the salt marsh resources they manage.

The NCBN protocols for monitoring salt marsh were first implemented at George Washington Birthplace National Monument (GEWA) in Virginia during the summer of 2008. This report summarizes the second year of nekton and vegetation data collected at GEWA in 2010. Monitoring will continue on a biennial basis.

The percent cover of each vegetation species and non-vegetation cover type within each 1 m2 plot was visually estimated using a revised Braun-Blanquet method (Kent and Coker 1992). Fifty vegetation plots were sampled at GEWA in August 2010. A total of 18 vegetation species and three non-vegetation cover types were recorded. Non-vegetation cover types observed included water, wrack & litter, and bare ground. Spartina alterniflora had the largest average percent cover and was one of the most frequently observed species. One species, Phragmites australis, is listed as a highly invasive species in the state of Virginia (Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation 2009).

Nekton were sampled in the tidal creek exclusively. Five nekton species consisting of three fish and two decapod species were captured at GEWA during the summer of 2010. The nekton community in 2010 was clearly dominated by fish, which accounted for 99.7% of all nekton captured, with decapods making up less than 0.5% of the total catch. A single species, Fundulus heteroclitus (common mummichog) accounted for approximately 88% of all nekton captured at GEWA in 2010.

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