Research Grants/Fellowships/SBIR

Linking Plant Traits to Species Performance in Remnant and Restored Inland Salt Marsh Communities

EPA Grant Number: F07F10155
Title: Linking Plant Traits to Species Performance in Remnant and Restored Inland Salt Marsh Communities
Investigators: Eallonardo, Jr., Anthony S.
Institution: State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry
EPA Project Officer: Just, Theodore J.
Project Period: September 1, 2007 through June 1, 2009
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2007) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Academic Fellowships , Fellowship - Terrestrial Systems Ecology , Ecological Assessment



Ecological restoration is a necessary component of biological conservation and a key survival strategy as the human population hurdles towards 8 billion. However, ecological restoration is an expensive, risky endeavor where lessons learned are often site or species specific. The scope of this study is to develop a restoration approach based on plant traits. Restoration understood from a traits perspective will make its results more general and future outcomes more predictable.

The focus of the study is to develop guidelines for the restoration of inland salt marsh, a globally imperiled plant community. Due to the anatomical and physiological adaptations of the plant species that comprise this community, inland salt marsh is an ideal target community for the remediation of an extensive saline landfill, the Solvay Waste Beds (SWB), adjacent to the Onondaga Lake, NY superfund site. The study objectives are to:

  1. Link species traits to relative abundance across abiotic gradients in remnant inland salt marsh communities;
  2. Construct inland salt marsh pilot communities at the SWB and link species traits to
    1. Species interactions and
    2. Transpiration potential of restored communities.


Vegetation composition will be sampled along soil salinity gradients at remnant inland salt marsh communities in western New York. Water level, soil salinity and leaf trait (leaf area, mass, nutritional status) data will be collected and used to predict plant species abundances. Survivorship, growth, relative yield, and community level transpiration will be assessed on mixed and monoculture plots replicated across a salinity gradient at the SWB. Trait data collected on these plants will be related to species and community level performance.

Expected Results:

This research will build upon prior efforts where regression was used to model salt marsh species persistence and productivity along hydrologic and edaphic gradients at the SWB. Upcoming results will enable the optimization of planting combinations at a given salinity level relative to a regression-based, mechanistic understanding of species interactions. The use of plant traits in this analysis will serve as a model for generalizing restoration outcomes and linking restoration outcomes to the broader ecological and evolutionary context of plant trait syndromes.

Supplemental Keywords:

ecological restoration, inland salt marsh, plant traits, salt tolerance, transpiration, plant communities, terrestrial systems ecology, sodium chloride, calcium carbonate, salinity,