Salt Marsh

The salt marsh is that grassy place were sea gives way to land. At its very edge, washed by tides twice daily…the heat and wind and salt and sea defeat all but a few well adapted plants. Salt marsh cordgrass is the dominant plant that gives our salt marshes their carpet of green. And, in places, one finds some succulent glasswort, once pickled for food. Mussels cling to its seaward edges, and a close up inspection finds it teeming with life.

The salt marsh is one of the most productive ecosystems on earth supporting a huge biomass. The unseen mass below ground of roots and rhizome, may be twice that which you can see. It stores a reservoir of nutrients and chemicals, in its plant tissue and sediments Often called the nursery of the sea, the rich detritus, made up of decomposing organisms, nourishes young fish and crabs who find both food and shelter from predators. Reptiles, amphibians, worms, insects, snails and tiny crustaceans find food and are food in this rich web of life.

Niches in time as well as space.

Animals must compete for food with other animals; nesting birds in spring will sing to proclaim their territory and ward off competitors from nesting too close. But some animals with competing needs occupy the same space, but at different times of year. The Northern Harrier and the Osprey occupy the same habitat and prey on many of the same animals, but the osprey arrives in mid March and leaves at the end of summer, and the harrier arrives in the fall and stays for the winter, so they are not competitors.

Welcoming places for migratory birds

In autumn, flocks of migratory waterfowl stop to feed in the salt marshes, and many stay for the winter finding both food and shelter there.

What do salt marshes do for us?

  1. Salt marshes are buffers between land and sea; storing water, and trapping sediments and nutrients before the water is released to the Bays.
  2. These giant sponges can hold huge quantities of water, releasing it slowly to the ground, and protecting us from flooding during storm events.
  3. Salt marshes are shock absorbers, slowing the waves driven in by the wind of hurricanes and storms

What can we do for them?

Take Action! Advocate for good public policy that protects our salt marshes.

Posted Under: Uncategorized