To the untrained eye, a salt marsh looks like a soggy, smelly place with too many bugs.
Years ago, they were only considered good for harvesting“salt hay” and peat for fuel.
But in 1969, John and Mildred Teal, in Falmouth, Massachusetts, published this book, which changed everything.It helped lead to the establishment of the EPA in 1970 and the Clean Water Act in 1972, as well as the Wetlands Protection Act right here in Massachusetts.
Now we understand their importance much better.They serve as huge natural “filters” or “sponges”. They also provide protection against flooding and storms.
They are even more important as habitat to many creatures, especially birds. Can you identify any of these birds?
Here is an energy web (aka food web) showing how interconnected so many organisms are, and how they directly or indirectly rely on the salt marsh for their existence.
Of course salt marshes are also home to the nasty saltwater mosquito. Notice the man-made mosquito ditches.
The idea behind the mosquito ditch is to allow water movement as the tides come and go. Mosquitoes need absolutely still water to reproduce. It is not clear if they actually work.
Spartina alternifolia (salt water cord-grass) is the dominant plant of the salt marsh..
The cord-grass acts like a trap to catch all the nutrients that come in with each high tide, twice a day, every day.
This diagram shows how the formation and growth of a salt marsh is also related to the growth of the barrier beach.
Salt marshes are considered by many ecologists as one of the most biologically important ecosystems on Earth. They need to be understood, protected, and preserved.(Click on image for video 6:03)