Conservation and Management
Saltwater tidal creeks are threatened by direct dredging and filling for development; by adjacent development, shoreline hardening, and associated run-off (including residential, municipal, road, and bridge construction); alteration to natural tidal hydrodynamics from impoundments, ditching, blocked culverts and outlets, stream channelization, water diversions, and bank stabilization; and by declining water quality (from sewage and stormwater discharge, nonpoint source runoff, landfill leachate, boat traffic, particulate aircraft and vehicular emissions, jet fuel, ethylene glycol from aircraft deicing, siltation, trash, turbidity, and pesticides). They are indirectly threatened by management activities in adjacent salt marsh complexes (e.g., pesticide use for mosquito control, marsh ditching, channel dredging, dredge spoil deposition). They may also be threatened by over-harvesting of commercial and game species. Some creeks are threatened by invasive, non-native plants, such as the algae dead man's fingers (Codium fragile), and animals, such as green crabs and mute swans.
Conservation Strategies and Management Practices
Where practical, establish and maintain a salt marsh and tidal creek buffer to reduce storm-water, pollution, and nutrient run-off, while simultaneously capturing sediments before they reach the creek. Buffer width should take into account the erodibility of the surrounding soils, slope steepness, and current land use. If possible, minimize the number and size of impervious surfaces in the surrounding landscape. Avoid habitat alteration within the creek and surrounding landscape. For example, roads should not be routed through the salt marsh and tidal creek buffer area. If the creek must be crossed, then bridges are preferred over filling and culverts. Restore past impacts, such as removing obsolete impoundments and ditches in order to restore natural tidal hydrodynamics. Prevent the spread of invasive exotic species into the creek through appropriate direct management and by minimizing potential dispersal corridors. Restoration and monitoring protocols for salt marsh complexes are available (Niedowski 2000).
Development and Mitigation Considerations
Strive to minimize or eliminate hardened shorelines and maintain low-sloped shorelines within the tidal zone to increase overland sediment input. Maintain functional connectivity between the open ocean and bays with salt marsh complexes to enable full tidal flushing during each tidal cycle. For example, barriers such as railway causeways should have numerous culverts to allow sufficient hydrologic connectivity. If flow restriction devices are needed, those that are calibrated for local tidal hydrology can be used. Avoid dumping dredge spoil onto salt marshes and associated tidal creeks. This community is best protected as part of a large salt marsh complex. Protected areas should encompass the full mosaic of low salt marsh, high salt marsh, marine intertidal mudflats, saltwater tidal creek, salt panne, and salt shrub communities to allow dynamic ecological processes (sedimentation, erosion, tidal flushing, and nutrient cycling) to continue. Connectivity to brackish and freshwater tidal communities, upland beaches and dunes, and to shallow offshore communities should be maintained. Connectivity between these habitats is important not only for nutrient flow and seed dispersal, but also for animals that move between them seasonally. Development of site conservation plans that identify wetland threats and their sources and provide management and protection recommendations would ensure their long-term viability.
Inventory needs are to continue to search for large saltwater tidal creeks in good condition (A- to AB-ranked), prioritizing creeks that are associated within high quality salt marsh complexes (e.g., high salt marsh, low salt marsh, salt pannes, and salt shrub).
Sufficient quantitative data on the characteristic flora and fauna of saltwater tidal creeks needs to be collected and the effects of invasive exotic plants and animals on the community needs to be investigated.
- Acipenser brevirostrum (Shortnose Sturgeon)
- Bartonia paniculata ssp. paniculata (Green Screwstem)
- Cardamine longii (Long's Bittercress)
- Cyperus polystachyos var. texensis (Coast Flatsedge)
- Eriocaulon parkeri (Estuary Hatpins)
- Kinosternon subrubrum (Eastern Mud Turtle)
- Rumex fueginus (American Golden Dock)
- Sabatia campanulata (Slender Marsh Pink)
- Strongylura marina (Atlantic Needlefish)