Date of Submission


Document Type



Roman N. Zajac, Ph.D.


Human Development, Salt Marsh, Growth and Reproduction of Spartina alterniflora


Development--Environmental aspects, Salt marshes, Spartina alterniflora


This study focused on how human development may impact salt marshes using the common native species Spartina alterniflora as an indicator. Salt marshes are vital coastal ecosystems that help protect against major flooding and can filter pollutants from the water. Like many environments, salt marshes have been impacted by human development in many ways, from construction of cities and roadways to pollution from industrial facilities and equipment. The salt marshes that once dominated many coastlines along the North American Atlantic coast have been destroyed or reduced in size dramatically with the extensive development that has occurred along these shores. Three local salt marshes in the New Haven, CT, area were selected for this study based on their level of human development in the surrounding area, including the highly developed Long Wharf area in New Haven harbor, the relatively less impacted Sandy Point at the mouth of New Haven harbor, and a marsh in Branford which is located within a low human impact coastal landscape. At each marsh, Spartina alterniflora was the dominant species in the low marsh where samples were taken. At each site, samples of the stems and inflorescences of Spartina alterniflora were sampled along a transect and processed to determine their sizes and wet and dry weights. These were then compared to assess differences among the marshes relative to the impact gradient. Results indicated that although plant characteristics were statistically different among each site, there were no clear relationships to the impact gradient as it appeared that Spartina alterniflora was being impacted differently by the surrounding development and natural environment conditions.