The dominant plant of sedge meadows is tussock sedge (Carex stricta). Stands of this sedge provide excellent nesting habitat for rails and snipe. They, along with other sedges, form "hummocks" in sedge meadows. Hummocks are small mounds in the meadow composed of undecayed fibrous roots and rhizomes.
There are several hundred occurrences statewide. A few documented occurrences have good viability and several are protected on public land or private conservation land. This community is sparsely scattered but widespread throughout the state. There are a few large, high quality examples. The current trend of this community is probably stable for occurences on public land and private conservation land, or declining slightly elsewhere due to moderate threats related to development pressure or alteration to the natural hydrology.
The number and acreage of sedge meadows in New York have probably remained stable in recent decades as a result of wetland protection regulations.
The number and acreage of sedge meadows in New York have probably declined substantially from historical numbers likely correlated to the alteration of natural hydrology (e.g., draining, impoundments) and agricultural activity, such as overgrazing or hay cutting.
Sedge meadows are threatened by adjacent development and its associated run-off (e.g., from agriculture, residential developments, mining, roads) and habitat alteration in the surrounding landscape (e.g., clearing, logging). In addition, alteration to the natural hydrological regime and the introduction of invasive species such as purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria), reedgrass (Phragmites australis ssp. australis ), Japanese knotweed (Reynoutria japonica), and reed canary grass (Phalaris arundinacea) also pose significant threats to this community.
Consider how water flows around and into this wetland. Projects that occur near this community must consider the proximity of the development to this wetland and the potential for changing how water flows, both above ground and below ground, into this wetland. Terrestrial buffers provide nesting habitat for resident salamanders, frogs, and turtles, and additional food sources for locally nesting birds, and thus should be retained. Impervious surfaces that rapidly divert water to the wetland should be avoided.
When considering road construction and other development activities, minimize actions that will change what water carries and how water travels to this community, both on the surface and underground. Water traveling over-the-ground as run-off usually carries an abundance of silt, clay, and other particulates during (and often after) a construction project. While still suspended in the water, these particulates make it difficult for aquatic animals to find food; after settling to the bottom of the wetland, these particulates bury small plants and animals and alter the natural functions of the community in many other ways. Thus, road construction and development activities near this community type should strive to minimize particulate-laden run-off into this community. Water traveling on the ground or seeping through the ground also carries dissolved minerals and chemicals. Road salt, for example, is becoming an increasing problem both to natural communities and as a contaminant in household wells. Fertilizers, detergents, and other chemicals that increase the nutrient levels in wetlands cause algae blooms and eventually an oxygen-depleted environment where few animals can live. Herbicides and pesticides often travel far from where they are applied and have lasting effects on the quality of the natural community. So, road construction and other development activities should strive to consider: 1. how water moves through the ground, 2. the types of dissolved substances these development activities may release, and 3. how to minimize the potential for these dissolved substances to reach this natural community.
Additional inventory efforts in regions with calcareous bedrock and wetlands along slow moving streams will likely turn up a few additional sites. Re-inventories of known sites will provide important information to help assess short and long-term changes.
Research better ways to accurately and efficiently measure and understand groundwater hydrology of sedge meadows. Further research into determining the proportion of the sedge meadow water inputs is needed (e.g., groundwater vs. surface). If a wetland is strongly groundwater influenced, traditional wetland buffers aimed at reducing surface water run-off may not sufficiently protect the groundwater hydrology.
This community is sparsely scattered but widespread throughout upstate New York. It is moderately common in the Northern Appalachians Ecoregion and relatively uncommon in the North Atlantic Coast Ecoregion.
This broadly-defined community may be worldwide. Examples with the greatest biotic affinities to New York occurrences are suspected to span north to southern Canada, west to Minnesota, southwest to Indiana and Tennessee, southeast to Georgia, and northeast to Nova Scotia.
A wet meadow community that has organic soils (muck or fibrous peat) that are permanently saturated and seasonally flooded; there is usually limited peat accumulation in the substrate, but it is deep enough (usually at least 20 cm) to be treated as a peatland; otherwise it would be classified as a mineral soil wetland such as shallow emergent marsh. The peat of this community is usually fibrous, rather than sphagnous, and is usually underlain by deep muck. The dominant herbs are tussock-forming sedge species, such as tussock sedge (Carex stricta) (Edinger et al. 2002).
Sedge meadows are open wetlands dominated by fibrous peat (at least 20 cm deep) and tussock-forming sedges such as tussock sedge, which has at least 50% cover. The most common associate is bluejoint grass (Calamagrostis canadensis), which has less than 50% cover. Other associates include other sedges (Scirpus spp., Carex spp., Eleocharis spp., Dulichium arundinaceum), sensitive fern (Onoclea sensibilis), manna grasses (Glyceria spp.), and sparsely distributed shrubs (Alnus spp., Spiraea spp.).
Known examples of this community have been found at elevations between 399 feet and 2,067 feet.
Meadowsweet and hardhack (Spiraea spp.), when present, come into full bloom during midsummer. Many of the characteristic sedges and grasses are best identified during late summer, when they flower and fruit.
This New York natural community encompasses all or part of the concept of the following International Vegetation Classification (IVC) natural community associations. These are often described at finer resolution than New York's natural communities. The IVC is developed and maintained by NatureServe.
This New York natural community falls into the following ecological system(s). Ecological systems are often described at a coarser resolution than New York's natural communities and tend to represent clusters of associations found in similar environments. The ecological systems project is developed and maintained by NatureServe.
Alnus incana ssp. rugosa (speckled alder)
Spiraea alba var. latifolia (broad-leaved meadow-sweet)
Spiraea tomentosa (steeplebush)
Carex stricta (tussock sedge)
Carex utriculata (bottle-shaped sedge)
Carex vesicaria (lesser bladder sedge)
Comarum palustre (marsh-cinquefoil)
Equisetum fluviatile (river horsetail)
Glyceria canadensis (rattlesnake manna grass)
Impatiens capensis (spotted jewelweed, spotted touch-me-not)
Lysimachia terrestris (swamp-candles)
Onoclea sensibilis (sensitive fern)
Scirpus atrovirens (dark-green bulrush)
Scirpus cyperinus (common wool-grass)
This figure helps visualize the structure and "look" or "feel" of a typical Sedge Meadow. Each bar represents the amount of "coverage" for all the species growing at that height. Because layers overlap (shrubs may grow under trees, for example), the shaded regions can add up to more than 100%.
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Damman, A.W.H. and T.W. French. 1987. The ecology of peat bogs of the glaciated northeastern United States: a community profile. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Biological Report 85(7.16). 100 pp.
Edinger, G. J., D. J. Evans, S. Gebauer, T. G. Howard, D. M. Hunt, and A. M. Olivero (editors). 2014. Ecological Communities of New York State. Second Edition. A revised and expanded edition of Carol Reschke’s Ecological Communities of New York State. New York Natural Heritage Program, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Albany, NY. https://www.nynhp.org/ecological-communities/
Edinger, Gregory J., D.J. Evans, Shane Gebauer, Timothy G. Howard, David M. Hunt, and Adele M. Olivero (editors). 2002. Ecological Communities of New York State. Second Edition. A revised and expanded edition of Carol Reschke's Ecological Communities of New York State. (Draft for review). New York Natural Heritage Program, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Albany, NY. 136 pp.
Gawler, S. C. 2001. Natural landscapes of Maine: Natural community profiles. Open (non-forested) types. Final review draft, July 2001. Maine Natural Areas Program. Department of Conservation. Augusta, ME.
Langdon, Stephen F., M. Dovciak, and D.J. Leopold. 2020. Tree Encroachment Varies by Plant Community in a Large Boreal Peatland Complex in the Boreal-Temperate Ecotone of Northeastern USA. Wetlands. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13157-020-01319-z
New York Natural Heritage Program. 2023. New York Natural Heritage Program Databases. Albany, NY.
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. 1995. Freshwater Wetlands: Delineation Manual. July 1995. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Division of Fish, Wildlife, and Marine Resources. Bureau of Habitat. Albany, NY.
Reschke, Carol. 1990. Ecological communities of New York State. New York Natural Heritage Program, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Latham, NY. 96 pp. plus xi.
Sperduto, D.D. and W.F. Nichols. 2004. Natural Communities of New Hampshire. New Hampshire Natural Heritage Bureau, Concord, New Hampshire. Pub. University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension, Durham, New Hampshire.
Swain, P.C. and J.B. Kearsley. 2000. Classification of the Natural Communities of Massachusetts. Unpublished draft July 2000. Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program, Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, Westborough. MA.
This guide was authored by: Gregory J. Edinger
Information for this guide was last updated on: June 24, 2021
Please cite this page as:
New York Natural Heritage Program. 2023. Online Conservation Guide for Sedge meadow. Available from: https://guides.nynhp.org/sedge-meadow/. Accessed March 23, 2023.