Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Plant and Soil Science


Plant and Soil Science

First Advisor

William R. Wright


A ditched and unditched tidal salt marsh, located on opposite sides of the Palmer River, were characterized to obtain baseline data on New England tidal salt marsh soils, test provisional criteria for their classification, and determine if mosquito ditching had altered soil characteristics.

The marshes were mapped according to vegetative cover and peat depth. Twelve soil profiles were sampled and analysed for state of organic matter decomposition, total nitrogen, organic carbon, pH, heavy metals and particle size.

The 12 soil profiles described met the classification for Sulfihemists and most soil properties were within the range of those reported for Sulfihemists in other areas of the United States. The mean pH, total nitrogen and organic carbon contents of the soils in this study were 6.33, 1.4% and 31.8%, respectively. The concentrations of heavy metals within the soil profiles were also comparable to those found in other tidal salt marsh soils. The data obtained in this study, however, suggest that the organic material is less decomposed than that found in salt marshes south of New England. This phenomena may be related to the cooler climate which exists in New England.

The criteria proposed for describing and classifying tidal salt marsh soils require clarification and refinement. The presence of sulfidic material is frequently determined by the drop in pH as a result of repeated drying and oxidation of the organic material. This study has shown that repeated drying of the organic portion of the soil did not significantly reduce pH and that a single drying cycle was sufficient in characterizing potential acidity. It was also found that chemical properties of the three decomposition classes (i.e. Fibric, Hemic, Sapric) were not significantly different.

Comparison of the ditched and unditched marsh did not demonstrate any major difference in the soil characteristics studied or provide any evidence of effects of drainage due to mosquito ditching.



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