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Classification of Wetlands and Deepwater Habitats of the United States

Unconsolidated Shore


Definition. The Class Unconsolidated Shore includes all wetland habitats having three characteristics: (1) unconsolidated substrates with less than 75% areal cover of stones, boulders, or bedrock; (2) less than 30% areal cover of vegetation other than pioneering plants; and (3) any of the following water regimes: irregularly exposed, regularly flooded, irregularly flooded, seasonally flooded, temporarily flooded, intermittently flooded, saturated, or artificially flooded. Intermittent or intertidal channels of the Riverine System and intertidal channels of the Estuarine System are classified as Streambed.

Description. Unconsolidated Shores are characterized by substrates lacking vegetation except for pioneering plants that become established during brief periods when growing conditions are favorable. Erosion and deposition by waves and currents produce a number of landforms such as beaches, bars, and flats, all of which are included in this Class. Unconsolidated Shores are found adjacent to Unconsolidated Bottoms in all Systems; in the Palustrine and Lacustrine Systems, the Class may occupy the entire basin. As in Unconsolidated Bottoms, the particle size of the substrate and the water regime are the important factors determining the types of plant and animal communities present. Different substrates usually support characteristic invertebrate fauna. Faunal distribution is controlled by waves, currents, interstitial moisture, salinity, and grain size (Hedgpeth 1957; Ranwell 1972; Riedl and McMahan 1974).

Subclasses and Dominance Types.

Dominance Types for Unconsolidated Shores in the Marine and Estuarine Systems were taken primarily from Smith (1964), Morris (1966), Abbott (1968), Ricketts and Calvin (1968), and Gosner (1971). Dominance Types for Unconsolidated Shores in the Lacustrine, Riverine, and Palustrine Systems were taken primarily from Stehr and Branson (1938), Kenk (1949), Ward and Whipple (1959), Cummins et al. (1964), Johnson (1970), Ingram (1971), Clarke (1973), and Hart and Fuller (1974).
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