Landscape Estimates of Habitat Types, Plant Biomass, and Invertebrate Densities in a Georgia Salt Marsh

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Salt marshes often contain remarkable spatial heterogeneity at multiple scales across the landscape. A combination of advanced remote-sensing approaches (hyperspectral imagery and lidar) and conventional field survey methods was used to produce detailed quantifications and maps of marsh platform geomorphology, vegetation composition and biomass, and invertebrate patterns in a Georgia (USA) salt marsh. Community structure was largely related to hydrology, elevation, and soil properties. Both abiotic drivers and community patterns varied among subwatersheds and across the landscape at larger spatial scales. The authors conclude that measurements of marsh ecosystem structure and processes are spatially contextual and not scalable without detailed geospatial analysis. Efforts to protect and restore coastal marshes must strive to document, understand, and conserve this inherent spatial complexity.