The Stunning Salt Marsh Landscape

Filed under Education, Environment

 

Every week we discuss a new ‘green’ movement, product, company, or discuss the newest way to recycle items. Whether it be the latest in fashion or food or other businesses, ‘going green’ is a large part of every industry on the map. The Green Register is the online magazine that literally offers information on everything ‘green’ and has brought more and more online readers and viewers to its pages.

 

This week, however, I want to speak about a landscape – a truly beautiful landscape that has definitely become one of the most necessary when it comes to the regeneration of the earth. The efforts that are being made to recycle and rebuild these territories – re-forming the habitats that are so necessary for plant and animal life to thrive once more – are growing bigger everyday.

 

Recently I was introduced to a location when doing an article about the stunning St. Simon’s Island (one of the Golden Isles off the coast of Georgia). Here, visitors travel over the amazing salt marshes in order to visit the island, and it is absolutely beautiful to discover and view this particular landmass.

 

Surrounded by what is known as an evergreen maritime forest, the salt marshes are almost like an artists’ drawing. When spring arrives plants and animals literally fill the ecosystem with the bold, bright green cordgrass and the colorful flowers that spring up in the mudflats. It is one piece of vegetation – cordgrass – that literally fills the regularly flooded low marsh and is really the one plant responsible for most all of the landscapes production. Cordgrass can live here very well, whereas other plants would have an extremely hard time surviving. With narrow blades, cord grass actually secretes excess salt, which means it can continue to grow even in the high heat and salt water atmosphere. And even though there are hardly any animals who ‘dine; on this plant, there are many creatures that live on it or use it for shelter.

 

When summer comes along and brings with it the very high temperatures, this is one area of earth that is still completely and utterly green. Unlike the horrific images of our present-day Dust Bowl that is wiping out the crops one by one. When the Fall months come, there is something called ‘golden seed heads’ that arrive in the salt marsh ecosystem. These actually are eaten by the birds of winter who will come to this area on their own vacation.

 

Most of us (especially us New Englanders) see the winter months coming and watch our trees, branches, flowers, etc. die out. It is almost a depressing time of year. Yet when it comes to the salt marshes, the decay of the cordgrass is well-received, because it becomes a HUGE substance for the environment. The dead cordgrass will drift up on the beaches and form a foundation for the dunes which then provide nutrients to the soil that MUST be had in order to maintain an ecosystem that really works and benefits not only the animals and plant life, but also the earth, itself.

 

These incredibly beautiful marshes renew themselves, and even the stunning Bald Eagle comes here to nest. Oyster shell banks also thrive, as well as osprey, heron, egrets, white ibis and wood storks, that all come to nest and produce their young.

 

My daughter’s favorite, the dolphin, are also here in this area all year long, making friends with the migrants that have inhabited waters just off the coastline. There’s literally nothing more beautiful than this site; watching the plants, animals, and the pure and utter ingredients of Mother Nature come back to life during a time that has negatively affected our much-needed environment is almost a thrill.

 

For those who don’t know, the salt marsh is an environment that resides between land and salt water, and they truly play a monumental role in the aquatic food chain. Now, it took a while to truly understand the salt marsh. In fact, all marshes were once seen as nothing but the ‘wastelands of nature.’  Thankfully…times have changed and the importance of this particular ecosystem has been discovered.

 

In many locations, the salt marshes have returned to their former glory. Reclamation of land for agriculture is a common practice throughout our history; sheep and cattle always grazed on the highly fertile salt marshland which resulted in some changes that actually hurt the environment, such as problems in vegetation, sedimentation, salinity, water flow and more. What people seemed to lose over time was the understanding that these salt marshes are ecosystems that must be protected (along with the tropical rain forests). They produce a wealth of nutrients, they help reduce the erosion on sea walls, and offer a home to species of plants and animals that are necessary to earth’s survival.

 

It may surprise people to know that these ‘wastelands’ are one of the most biologically productive habitats on earth; they even offer native migratory fish and other aquatic beings a shelter, as well as feeding and nursery grounds for ‘parents’ to raise their young. Extremely important, the salt marshes are now protected by laws such as, “The Clean Water Act” and the “Habitats Directive.”

 

The interest in restoring salt marshes has become very large, and more and more countries are reclaiming land to re-establish this remarkable environment. This is a subject close to my heart considering that my home state of Connecticut lost their salt marshes to dredging and fills a long time ago. It wasn’t until 1980 that a restoration program was adopted that has been working for the last thirty years to reconnect the marshes and return ecological functions to the state.

 

More and more people, states and organizations year after year have been working to restore salt marshes all over the globe, and even though there are problems the salt marsh ecosystem IS coming back to life. Long-term monitoring of everything from nutrients to tidal patterns to rediscovering species of flora and fauna has become a reality.

 

But for anyone who scans through this document, or imagines that salt marshes are unbecoming, need to look again. Those stunning marshes that all must travel over to get to St. Simon’s Island for business or pleasure look out their windows and see something so magical and mysterious that they know beyond a shadow of a doubt that salt marshes MUST be a part of our landscape forever.

 

Until Next Time, Everybody.

 

For more information on this particular eco-system of St. Simon’s, go to:

http://www.stsimonsisland.com/salt-marsh-transformation

 

For more information on ‘green’ projects, go to:

www.thegreenregister.com

 

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