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Open-File Report 2006-1167

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Salt Marsh Dieback in Coastal Louisiana: Survey of Plant and Soil Conditions in Barataria and Terrebonne Basins, June 2000-September 2001

By Karen L. McKee, Irving A. Mendelssohn, and Michael D. Materne

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Sudden and extensive dieback of the perennial marsh grass, Spartina alterniflora Loisel (smooth cordgrass), which dominates regularly flooded salt marshes along the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic coastlines, occurred in the coastal zone of Louisiana. The objectives of this study were to assess soil and plant conditions in dieback areas of the Barataria-Terrebonne estuarine system as well as vegetative recovery during and after this dieback event. Multiple dieback sites were examined along 100 km of shoreline from the Atchafalaya River to the Mississippi River during the period from June 2000 through September 2001. The species primarily affected was S. alterniflora; sympatric species such as Avicennia germinans (L.) Stearn (black mangrove) and Juncus roemerianus Scheele (needlegrass rush) showed no visible signs of stress. The pattern of marsh dieback was distinctive with greatest mortality in the marsh interior, suggesting a correlation with local patterns of soil chemistry and/or hydrology. Little or no expansion of dieback occurred subsequent to the initial event, and areas with 50 percent or less mortality in the...>>MORE

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Posted September 2006

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