Environmental Science and Management
Natural Resources Science
Salt marsh ecosystems can be found along the east coast of the United States, but are now disappearing due to human development and sea level rise. Salt marshes provide countless ecosystem services including shoreline protection from storms and flooding, nutrient removal, habitat for fish, birds and other wildlife, and provide some of the most beautiful areas for hunting, fishing and recreational activities. In order to protect salt marshes and restore the large portion of them that have been damaged, it is important to focus on the vegetation that help salt marshes function. Spartina alterniflora, smooth cordgrass, is a critical component of the salt marsh vegetation community. S. alterniflora is a dominant species that helps to stabilize the ecosystem, retain a seedbank of other species, uptake nutrients, and provide important habitat for wildlife. In order to grow S. alterniflora for restoration purposes, the species must be grown from seed to provide genetic diversity and high survival rates when planted. However, low germination rates have limited the use of this species for restoration using seeds. While working with the program, Rhody Native, I tested different methods to achieve high germination rates for S. alterniflora including comparing soil mixes, seed colors, and root development stages. This process is essential to find a propagation method that will work effectively to obtain high germination rates for this essential species to then use for restoration in local salt marshes.