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Watershed Habitats – Salt Marsh

View of a salt marsh

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 food and shelter from predators. Reptiles, worms, amphibians, insects, snails and crustaceans find food and are food in this rich web of life.

Niches in time as well as space

Closer view of a salt marsh

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.

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?

Work for good public policy that protects our salt marshes.