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 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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