Testing the transferability of a marsh-inundation model across two landscapes

Wei, A. and Chow-Fraser, P.
(2008) 600: 41-47


The effect of water-level (WL) fluctuations on both the structure and functioning of coastal marshes is well documented, and in the past, scientists have demonstrated this by relating historical changes in the areal cover of emergent vegetation (EM) of a particular site to corresponding WL data. This approach of relating areal cover to WL cannot be applied to multiple sites from a region experiencing the same WL because in that instance, WL would be a constant and cannot be used as an explanatory variable for emergent cover. In a previous study of Cootes Paradise Marsh, we proposed the use of a Digital Elevation Model (DEM) to examine the effect of WL fluctuations on emergent plant cover over a 60-year period (1934–1993), and found that the inundated area (IA) was a better predictor of emergent cover than WL. However, the transferability of the marsh-inundation model and the related uncertainty has not yet been tested in a distinct geographic region. In the present article, we test the transferability of the model and develop a regional model of vegetation response to validate the DEM-based method. We confirm the existence of a highly significant relationship between percent IA and percent emergent cover over a large spatial scale in Eastern Lake Ontario. Additionally, we showed that this general relationship might be modified by the degree of urbanization in wetland watersheds. Our results suggest that this DEM-based approach is useful for predicting the aggregate response of EM to annual WL fluctuations and is transferable from local to regional scales.

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