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Casco Bay is the largest oil port in Maine and northern New England, handling over 20 million tons of crude oil and oil products annually. The susceptibility of the Bay’s estuarine habitats, especially its fringing salt marshes, to potential spill events was the impetus for this study. Although much has been learned to date about the effects of oil spills on estuarine habitats around the world, there is a real need for site-specific knowledge of the structures and functions of local habitats so that resource managers can be prepared in the event of a spill. Our study focused specifically on the value of Casco Bay’s fringing salt marshes to shellfish and finfish production, to vegetation production and diversity, and as buffers against sea level rise and coastal erosion. The work we have accomplished has been the first study of the fringing salt marshes of Casco Bay that has explored the biotic communities (fish, invertebrates and plants) of these marshes in conjunction with the physical properties of these sites. Knowledge of these local fringing salt marsh habitats will be invaluable in improving the effectiveness of oil spill cleanup operations, accurate assessment of natural resource damages caused by spills, and the restoration of impacted sites. In addition, the data acquired in this study provide an initial set of benchmarks upon which to build a program to assess long-term change in Casco Bay tidal marsh habitats.


Report prepared for the Maine Oil Spill Advisory Committee; Submitted: February 15, 2005.

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