Melissa Riley

Document Type

Internship Report

Publication Date

Fall 2017


Rhode Island’s coastal environment plays an integral role in providing habitat for hundreds of species of plants, fish, shellfish, birds, and mammals. Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge, located in Middletown, Rhode Island, is an important area for the protection of Rhode Island’s coasts and is facing many threats including invasion by nonindigenous, invasive plant species, and impending sea level rise, associated with climate change. The refuge hosts many different coastal communities including salt marshes and maritime shrubland, which are currently at risk and considered highly vulnerable to threats from invasive plants and climate change. Phragmites australis (common reed) and Vincetoxicum nigrum (black swallow-wort) affecting these “at risk” ecological communities of Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge were assessed in this study. During 2016 and 2017, 46 acres were monitored for percent coverage of V. nigrum and 26.5 acres for P. australis. This study also evaluated areas characterized by re-establishing native salt marsh grasses after a dredging project to increase elevations that would create a more resilient salt marsh at the refuge. During 2017, areas of natural regrowth versus hand-planted areas were assessed and compared using a point-intercept surveying method. Differences in the height of Spartina alterniflora (smooth cordgrass) was also measured and compared to heights from 2015 and 2016. The results suggest that treatment techniques applied to P. australis are more effective at decreasing the percent cover of the species when compared to V. nigrum within the study timeframe. It was also concluded that areas of natural regrowth are much more diverse in species and have higher percent cover overall than areas of hand-planting. The results of this study can be utilized to help managers and biologists of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service make more informed decisions regarding the coastal resilience efforts of Rhode Island’s unique and fragile coastal ecosystems.


Department: MBE


Location: Rhode Island National Wildlife Refuge Complex

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