Human Impacts on New England Salt Marshes: Past, Present, and Future

EPA Grant Number: F5E10976
Title: Human Impacts on New England Salt Marshes: Past, Present, and Future
Investigators: Bromberg, Keryn D.
Institution: Brown University
EPA Project Officer: Hahn, Intaek
Project Period: September 1, 2005 through September 1, 2008
Project Amount: $111,172
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2005) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Academic Fellowships


The objective of this research is to quantify the extent of change that New England tidal marshes have undergone, and to examine the effects of anthropogenic disturbances on community structure and ecosystem function. The focus of this research will be on several major human impacts – historically by hay-farming and mosquito ditching and presently by invasion of Phragmites australis, eutrophication, and sea level rise.


With the goal of examining the ecosystem level effects of human impact, I will analyze 18 marshes in Maine, Rhode Island, and Connecticut using aerial photography, remote sensing, and GIS datalayers to identify the extent of ditching and P. australis invasion in New England. I will use field methodologies to measure differences in vegetative cover, decomposition rates, peat accretion, and nitrification rates in marshes with different regimes of human impact. Pollen analysis of peat cores and plant border monitoring will also be used to reconstruct past and ongoing changes in salt marsh vegetation.

Expected Results:

Results from this research will explain differences between coastal marshes with different histories of human disturbance and distinguish between natural features of coastal marshes and features that are artifacts of human land use.

Supplemental Keywords:

salt marsh, anthropogenic change, ditching, Phragmites, eutrophication, sea level rise,, RFA, Scientific Discipline, Ecosystem Protection/Environmental Exposure & Risk, RESEARCH, Monitoring/Modeling, Monitoring, Environmental Monitoring, remote sensing, eutrophication, aquatic ecosystem, anthropogenic stress, mosquito-bourne diseases, invasive species, hay farming, land use

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2006
  • 2007
  • Final