Salt Marshes : Recent Study
Recent studies show that more than 90% of the world’s salt marshes may soon succumb to sea level rise.
- Salt marshes are coastal wetlands that are flooded and drained by salt water brought in by the tides.
- They are marshy because the soil may be composed of deep mud and peat.
- Peat is made of decomposing plant matter that is often several feet thick.
- Peat is waterlogged, root-filled, and very spongy.
- Because salt marshes are frequently submerged by the tides and contain a lot of decomposing plant material, oxygen levels in the peat can be extremely low a condition called hypoxia.
- Hypoxia is caused by the growth of bacteria which produce the sulfurous rotten-egg smell that is often associated with marshes and mud flats.
- Salt marshes occur worldwide, particularly in middle to high latitudes.
- Thriving along protected shorelines, they are a common habitat in estuaries.
- These intertidal habitats are essential for healthy fisheries, coastlines, and communities and they are an integral part of our economy and culture.
- They also provide essential food, refuge, or nursery habitat for more than 75 percent of fisheries species, including shrimp, blue crab, and many finfish.
- Salt marshes also protect shorelines from erosion by buffering wave action and trapping sediments.
- They reduce flooding by slowing and absorbing rainwater and protect water quality by filtering runoff, and by metabolizing excess nutrients.