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Environmental and Vegetation Data from Marsh-Forest Transgression Experiment at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, MD, USA

December 9, 2021

We conducted a field experiment at the Moneystump Swamp in the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in Dorchester, MD, USA to simulate a natural forest disturbance event (e.g., storm-induced flooding) by inducing the death of established trees (coastal loblolly pine, Pinus taeda) at the marsh-upland forest ecotone. There were three treatment components: Cut- where the trees were cut and removed, Girdled- where the bark was stripped from the base of the trees killing them and leaving them standing, and Control- where the trees were left alive. After this simulated disturbance in 2015, we monitored changes in vegetation along an elevation gradient in control and treatment areas to determine if disturbance can lead to an ecosystem shift from forested upland to wetland vegetation by measuring vegetation indices such as Wetland Prevalence Index, Shannon's Diversity Index, and Shannon's Evenness Index. Separately, the recovery of the pine trees was tracked over time, with measurements of pine tree height, cover, and density. In addition to vegetation, other environmental variables were measured across the same elevation and treatment gradient including light availability and inundation.