I grew up spending much of my summers on the banks of the Little Wicomico River, on the productive estuary of the Chesapeake Bay off of Virginia and Maryland’s coast. This pungent ecosystem provides a protected breeding grounds for myriad fish species including and a wonderful place to explore and learn about our Lord’s creative genius.
Salt marshes with varying species compositions also occur on the coast of Spain, France, the Bay of Fundy in Canada, and New Zealand.
Vocabulary: estuary. salinity, detritus
Key species: blue crabs, marsh periwinkles, smooth cordgrass (Spartina), menhaden
Key processes: salt excretion, decomposition
Notable features: This is an incredibly productive ecosystem. Many nutrients are produced which provide lots of food micro-organisms, insects, fish, and birds. The salt marsh is very important for fish and shellfish rearing. Though productive, rapid changes in salinity, temperature and exposure create stressful conditions and thereby limit how many species occur in this habitat.
Connection to Us: For hundreds and thousands of years the Chesapeake Bay has served as the grocery store for people. The crabs, oysters, fish, waterfowl and other wildlife in the region fed Native Americans, colonists, and people who live in the region today.
Learn more about the Salt Marsh:
- Sea Science: A publication of the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources
- What is a Salt Marsh: NOAA Fisheries
- Salt Marsh & Intertidal Mudflat Ecosystems: Kennesaw State University
- Exploring Nature Educational Resources: Salt Marshes
Advanced: 14+ – Atlantic Shorelines: Natural History and Ecology, Mark Bertness
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