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Libby River Salt Marsh

 
Welcome to the Libby River Salt Marsh!


Libby River meanders for roughly 5 miles throughout Scarborough and joins the Scarborough River just before flowing into Saco Bay at Prouts Neck. The marsh lands surrounding Libby River contribute to Maine's most popular and largest tidal marsh system - the Scarborough Marsh, which is an impressive 3,100 acres. The Libby River wetland that I've focused on is an upstream region just above Black Point Road (Rt 207). This 22 acre focus area is a Salt-hay salt marsh, or Spartina salt marsh (Gawler & Cutko, 2010). 

Within the last 25 years, water quality studies and restoration projects followed by monitoring reports have been published in regards to the Libby River wetland. Development and land use practices threatened the water quality of the Libby River to the extent that clam flat closures occurred yearly in the 1980s. This prompted the Libby River Water Quality Management Study in 1988 which was a joint effort by The Town of Scarborough, ME, Maine Department of Environmental Protection, Maine Department of Marine Resources, the Town of Scarborough Sanitary District and Scarborough's own citizen volunteers (Ziepniewski, 1995). 

Additionally, in 2006, the Maine Department of Transportation (MEDOT) 
implemented a restoration plan on this Libby River portion of the Scarborough Marsh by supplementing a single 5-foot diameter culvert under Black Point Road with two 72-inch culverts to enhance tidal flow to the upstream region. Pre-construction monitoring revealed that the invasive Common Reed (Phragmites australis) dominated the marsh plant community. The third-year post construction monitoring reported an approximate 20% tidal flow improvement since pre-construction conditions but an increase in P. australis presence among plots (Normandeau Associates Inc., 2010). On a positive note, the average height of the Phragmites plants is less than first-year reports. The restoration project and monitoring was a collaboration of several partners including The Friends of Scarborough Marsh, MEDOT, Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Ducks Unlimited, and Normandeau Associates, Inc..



Wetland Characteristics

Soils

Within the 22 acres of the Libby River wetland, there are 5 distinct soil types, of which 2 are considered hydric (Web Soil Survey). Of the 22 acres, the Tidal Marsh soils (Tm) comprise 89.8%, and the Sebago mucky peat soils (Sp) comprise 0.5% of the wetland area. The Tm soils surround the river while the Sp soils are on the upland western edge of the marsh.  The upper parts of these hydric soils experience anaerobic conditions along with flooding and would be host to hydrophytic vegetation.

                                                                                                                  Soil horizons visible at low tide


Hydrology
The hydrology of the Libby River salt marsh is primarily influenced by tidal fluctuations. The Tm and Sp soils both experience pooling, while flooding only occurs in Tm soils (Web Soil Survey). The hydric soils' depth to water table (cm) is zero (leading to standing water) while the three nonhydric soils have depths ranging from 69 cm to >200 cm (Web Soil Survey). The Tm soils, which are closest to the river experience the longest periods of pooling and highest frequencies of flooding. Throughout this soil region are numerous salt   Empty panne on high marsh           pannes and small pools.   

Vegetation

The marsh is dominated by the expected Salt-hay

salt marsh Spartina plants, which are Smooth Cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora) and Salt Meadow Cordgrass (Spartina patens) (Gawler & Cutko, 2010). Throughout the high marsh and along the edges, patches of Common Reed (P. australis) were abundant. In several bare areas, new greenery was coming up that didn't appear to be either Spartina spp. Seaside Goldenrod (Solidago sempervirens) sporadically lined the rivers edge. In sparser distribution and lower
abundance, salt meadow rush (Juncus gerardii) and salt grass (Distichlis spicata) had settled in areas of the high marsh.

Phragmites and tree stands                  S. patens on marsh                                                                                                          on marsh edge

Wetland Type

Common Name

Scientific Name

Growth Form

Wetland Indicator Class

Abundance Based on Site Visit

E2US4P

common reed

Phragmites australis

shrub

FACW

moderate

E2EM1P

smooth cordgrass

Spartina alterniflora

non-woody plant

OBL

high


salt meadow cordgrass

Spartina patens

non-woody plant

FACW+

high


salt meadow rush

Juncus gerardii

non-woody plant

FACW+

low


salt grass

Distichlis spicata

non-woody plant

FACW+

low

E2EM1P6

common reed

Phragmites australis

shrub

FACW

moderate

 

Wildlife and Other Interesting Facts

During my visits to the Libby River Salt Marsh, which fell between the tail end of winter and early spring, I observed Canada Geese, a Greater Yellowlegs, Red Wing Black Birds, and the remains of a Horseshoe Crab. In the salt pannes and pools, I observed small fish, Sticklebacks and Mummichogs, darting around.         

 

Visiting the Wetland

The Libby River is state owned property and offers educational, recreational, and aesthetic opportunities for any salt marsh explorer (or anyone curious about nature and ecology). If you catch the tides at a good time, a canoe is a relaxing way to enjoy the Libby River. If you go on foot, I suggest wearing a pair of waterproof boots because of the extensive system of salt pannes and pools on the high marsh.

To locate Libby River, from the North, you can take I-295 S/US-1 S. Take Exit 2 toward US-1 S/Scarborough/Old Orchard and after 0.5 miles you will merge onto Scarborough Connector. Continue onto ME-9 W/US-1 S and after 2.8 miles turn left onto ME-207 S/Black Point Road. Libby River crosses under Black Point Road approximately 1.9 miles, but there is no road side parking at the access point. A suggested parking spot is the Camp Ketcha facility, which is a third of a mile up the road on the left.


References

Gawler, S. and Cutko, A. (2010). Natural Landscapes of Maine: A Guide to Natural Communities and

Ecosystems. Maine Natural Areas Program, Maine Department of Conservation, Augusta, Maine: ONLINE

Natural Areas Key: http://www.maine.gov/doc/nrimc/mnap/features/communitykey.htm

Normandeu Associates, Inc. (2010). Libby River Restoration Project Scarborough, Maine Third Year Post-Construction Monitoring Report. Retrieved from http://www.scarboroughcrossroads.org/marsh/reports/Libby_River_3rd_Year_Monitoring_2009_Final.pdf

Web Soil Survey [Data] (2011). U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service. Retrieved from http://websoilsurvey.nrcs.usda.gov/app/

 Ziepniewski, J. (1995). Libby River Watershed Water Quality Management Study, The Town of Scarborough Maine.  Scarborough Planning Department. Scarborough Retrieved from http://www.scarborough.me.us/planning/documents/libriv/env06p1.htm


Wetland information and photos by Carina Brown, Department of Environmental Science, 2013
Last updated on 29 April 2012 by CHVB
        

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