Project Period

June 1, 2013-May 31, 2015

Level of Access

Open-Access Report

Grant Number


Submission Date



All animal and plant populations can weather change. However, the amount of environmental change a population can absorb is likely to depend upon other, past and ongoing stresses that the population experiences. This project will test whether the ability of populations of native plants and animals in coastal marshes to withstand the recent, extreme storm Hurricane Sandy was greater or less in marshes more subject to past stresses. Researchers will compare the abundances of marsh plants and animals before and after the storm and test whether vulnerability was greater in more specialized species or in marshes surrounded by development, invaded by introduced plants, or challenged by high rates of sea-level rise, and whether previous protection of areas from different kinds of development or use helped reduce vulnerability. By addressing these questions using current theories of ecosystem disturbance, the research will provide general insights on the effects of disturbance and stress on native species and habitats.

This research also will provide a specific assessment of Hurricane Sandy's impact on tidal marshes, a vital buffer against storm damage. This will help managers target specific marshes for conservation and restoration and improve the efficiency of planned federal restoration efforts. The work will also inform future coastal management planning by identifying which types of marshes are most vulnerable to future disturbances. Findings will be disseminated to local, state, and federal partners through the Saltmarsh Habitat and Avian Research Program, a cooperative consortium of universities, non-governmental organizations, and state and Federal agency partners working together to conserve tidal marsh habitats and the species they support ( The project will also help train 20 field technicians.