Do You Science?: Salt Marsh Ecology

Do You Science?: Salt Marsh Ecology

The importance of salt marshes and their implications on wildlife.
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Salt Marshes are some of the most productive areas on Planet Earth, often yielding 2 kg of above ground production per square meter, annually. Growth of marsh vegetation and utilization of incoming nutrients make salt marshes highly productive systems. In addition to providing habitat and food sources for many organisms, salt marshes benefit humans and surrounding ecosystems by sheltering coasts from erosion and filtering nutrients and sediments from the water column.

Salt marshes form in sheltered coastal areas where sediments accumulate and allow growth of angiosperm plants that comprise the foundation of the ecosystem. Salt marshes develop between terrestrial and marine environments, resulting in biologically diverse communities adapted for harsh environmental conditions including desiccation, flooding, and extreme temperature and salinity fluctuations. Marshes act as nurseries to a wide variety of organisms, some of which are notably threatened or marketed as important fisheries species.

Three papers on Salt Marsh Plant Ecology explain the true importance and wonders of the Salt Marsh community. Salt Marshes are usually characterized by dominant vascular plant life and biodiversity among harsh conditions (high salinities, waterlogging etc.) according to a paper written by Chapman in 1974. Different physical gradients of intertidal zones allow for close examination of the physical effects of different species. Terrestrial borders are usually decided by tough competition (possibly between different molluscs, plants, and other species).

Many marsh plants actually have adaptations to survive in such harsh conditions and improve salt marsh life. Many plants are built for shading to prevent soil evaporation, while some plants can still oxidize in harsh soils. One study was done on the parasitic plant Cuscuta salina in a California salt marsh. It was concluded that parasitic plants can have strong effects on the structure and dynamics of natural vegetation assemblages.

However, these effects are mediated by physical and biological gradients across the landscape with methods that were explained earlier in the other paper. Pennings paper on Salicorna virginica and Arthrocnemum subterminalis, major flooding, soil salinity, and tough competition determined the zonation and location of both plants in a New England salt marsh.

Cover Image Credit: YouTube

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20 Of The Coolest Animal Species In The World

Animals that almost seem imaginary.
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The world is full of amazing animals. So amazing, that narrowing them down to 20 felt nearly impossible. To determine who made the cut for this list, I used very important factors such as, cuteness and how much some of them looked like Pokémon . I know, very official. So here are some of the coolest animals in the world.

1. Pink Fairy Armadillo

The pink fairy armadillo is the smallest and cutest species of armadillo. It is on the list of threatened species and is found in the sandy plains, dunes, and grasslands of Argentina. The pink fairy armadillo is a nocturnal creature that survives mostly on insects and plants.


2. Okapi

The okapi is an animal native to the Democratic Republic of Congo in Africa. Although the stripes make many people believe okapi are related to zebra, they are actually closer to giraffe. Okapi are solitary creatures and come together to breed. They are herbivores, mostly eating leaves, grass, and other plants.


3. Glaucus Atlanticus or "the Blue Dragon"

These little dragon-like creatures are often only about a few inches long and can be found in the Indian Pacific Oceans. The blue dragon floats upside down in order to blend the blue side of them with the water, and the silver side with the surface of the ocean. This tiny dragon feeds on creatures like the man o' war and can even deliver a sting similar to it.


4. The Maned Wolf

The maned wolf is often found in the grasslands of south, central-west, and southeastern parts of Brazil. It is neither related to wolves nor foxes despite its appearance and name, but is actually closer to dogs. The maned wolf hunts alone and primarily eats both meat and plants (about 50% of its diet).


5. Fossa

The fossa is a carnivorous animal located in Madagascar. Despite having many traits similar to cats, it is more closely related to the Mongoose. The fossa is only found in forest habitats and can hunt in either daytime or night. Over 50 percent of its diet happens to be lemurs.


6. Japanese Spider Crab

As the name suggestions, the Japanese spider crab inhabits the waters surrounding Japan. In many parts of Japan, this crab can be considered a delicacy but can be considerably difficult to catch. The Japanese spider crab can grow to 12 feet long from claw to claw. There is only one sea creature-- amongst similar species (aka crustaceans)-- that beats the weight of a Japanese spider crab: the American Lobster.


7. Pacu Fish

Look closely at the teeth, do they look familiar? This fish is found in the waters of South America. This fish, while related to the piranha, can actually grow much larger. They can also be found in rivers like the Amazon and is an aid to the fishing industry. Unlike the piranha, pacu mostly only eat seeds and nuts, though can still create nasty injuries to other animals if need be.


8. Slow Loris

The slow loris is a nocturnal creature found in Southeast Asia. While very adorable, the loris's teeth are actually quite venomous. The toxin on their teeth can also be applied to fur through grooming to protect its babies from predators. Often times these creatures forage and spend time alone, although can on occasion be seen with other slow lorises. Apart from their toxic teeth, the slow lorises have another defense mechanism, in which they move nearly completely silently in order to prevent discovery.


9. Angora Rabbit

These cute, fluffy rabbits are among the hairiest breeds of rabbit of both wild and domestic types. These rabbits originated in Turkey although managed to spread throughout Europe and was even brought to the United States in the 20th century. These rabbits are often bred for their soft wool which can be made into clothing, and often get rid of their own coats every 3-4 months.


10. Axolotl

The axolotl or "Mexican salamander" (who looks like a Pokémon , if you ask me) is often spotted in lakes in various places around Mexico. These little salamanders are amphibious although often spend their adult lives strictly in the water. However, the population of these cute creatures is dwindling due to non-native predators and the continued urbanization of Mexico. The axolotl eats small worms, insects, and fish in order to survive.


11. Liger

The liger, however made up it sounds, is a real (and cute) animal created by a lion and a tiger mating. Ligers only seem to exist in captivity or zoos because the lion and tiger don't share the same habitat in the wild. Unfortunately, these animals don't live very long or are sterile despite being bigger than both the lion and the tiger. While these animals are cool and unique, they are not strictly natural or sustainable.


12. Bearded Vulture

I don't know about you all, but this vulture reminds me of a phoenix which was initially why I looked into the creature. These vultures inhabit a range of places from southern Europe to the Indian subcontinent, to Tibet. This vulture, like other vultures, typically eats dead animals, although it has been documented that the bearded vulture will attack live prey more often than other vultures.


13. Goblin Shark


This unusual shark is also known as a "living fossil" because they are the last representative of sharks that lived about 125 million years ago. It is a deep sea shark that can grow between 10-13 feet if not longer. The goblin shark has been caught accidentally in every major ocean. The goblin shark is not a fast swimmer and relies on ambushing its prey.


14. Red Panda

This cute, small panda lives in the eastern Himalayas and southwestern China. The red panda is rather small, only about the same size as most domestic cats. Its eating habits range from bamboo, to eggs, to insects, and several other small mammals. The red panda is primarily sedentary during the day and at night or in the morning does whatever hunting it needs to do.


15. Blobfish

This blobfish is, in a way, so ugly that it is cute (although reminds me of a certain Pokémon ) This fish lives in the deep waters of Australia, Tasmania, and New Zealand. The blobfish has a density only sightly above that of water. The fish primarily hunts by just floating along and letting creatures wander into its mouth, rather than expending any energy.


16. Leaf Deer

The leaf deer is usually found in dense forests in the northwest region of Putao. The adult leaf deer only stands at about 20 inches high and the males and females are nearly identical except for an inch long horn on the males. It is called a leaf deer because hunters could wrap the deer in a single large leaf.


17. Tiger

While tigers are a more common animal than many others on this list, it is still one of the coolest animals in the world. Tigers are the largest of all cats and once ranged from Russia, to Turkey, to parts of Asia — almost all over the world. These animals are fierce, powerful creatures, although they are on the endangered species list.


18. Narwhals

Narwhals are a species of whale that live in the waters around Greenland, Canada, and Russia. The narwhal's diet changes depending on the time of year: in the spring the narwhal will eat cod, while in the winter the narwhal will eat flatfish. Narwhals can live up to 50 years and most frequently die of suffocation from being trapped under the ice.


19. Cheetah

Cheetahs, while more commonly heard of then some of the other animals on this list, are still incredibly cool. They often inhabit many parts of Africa and Iran. These amazing cats can reach up to 60 miles per hour in three seconds and use their tails to make quick and sudden turns. These amazing cats also have semi-retractable claws which helps with speed. The cheetah, however, doesn't have much besides speed to defend itself.


And finally....


20. Superb Bird of Paradise

This GIF demonstrates the mating dance used by male superb birds of paradise. Typically females reject about 20 mates before selecting one they want to mate with. They are often found in New Guinea although it is unsure just how many of these birds there are. As far as scientists know, the population has remained stable.

Cover Image Credit: Tumblr

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5 Ways We Can Help Protect Marine Life That Will Make You Say 'Shell-Yeah'

It is serious!

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Marine mammals such as dolphins, whales, and seals have captured the hearts of millions of people all over the world. But if we're not careful about how we treat their environment, they may not be around for much longer.

Here are some ways you can help protect our marine life friends!

1. Be beach-friendly. 

Whether you are at the beach to surf, swim, or just relax, always clean up after yourself. Explore and appreciate the ocean without interfering with wildlife or removing rocks or coral. If you really want to make a difference, start patrolling the beach area, and help pick up any trash you see lying around. Maybe even see if you can gather a group of people who will do it with you!

Also, don't take wild fish or hermit crabs away from their homes! They're not likely to live very long if they're taken away from their natural habitat. Also, never release any aquarium fish into the ocean or other bodies of water- a practice that can be very harmful to them.

2. Use fewer plastic products. 

Plastic can end up as ocean debris, which contributes to habitat destruction and entangles and kills tens of thousands of marine animals each year.

Many marine animals (such as sea turtles) mistake plastic waste for a viable food source, sometimes causing blockages in their digestive system. Though the declining sea turtle populations in oceans are due to a variety of reasons, plastic pollution plays a significant role. They eat things like jellyfish and are very likely to mistake a plastic straw for a jellyfish snack.

Also, don't ever release balloons- just pop them and throw them out. If you release them, they are a danger to marine wildlife who can accidentally swallow them because they mistook them for food.

3. Limit activities that can alter an animal's environment. 

Worldwide, dolphins face a variety of impacts that threaten their very existence- most of which are impacts of human activities. In recent history, the Yangtze river dolphin was declared extinct due to its river habitat being obstructed by the building of dams and the invasion of boat traffic.

When you are in the animals' natural habitat, be careful not to leave behind or do anything that could cause serious harm to their environment. Clean up after yourselves, and don't leave behind fishing wires, hooks, trash, or anything else.

4. Advocate for oil spill clean-up. 

Going along with the above statement, oil spills can be caused not only by equipment breaking down but also by people making mistakes or just being careless. Oil spills into rivers, oceans, and bays are often caused by accidents involving tankers, pipelines, storage facilities, drilling rigs, refineries, and barges.

Most oils float, so the animals most affected sea otters and sea birds that are found on the sea surface or on shorelines if the oil comes ashore. During most oil spills, seabirds are harmed and killed in greater numbers than any other kinds of creatures. If heavy oils get into the feathers of birds, they may die of hypothermia for losing their ability to keep themselves warm. This same effect is observed with sea otters. Sea otters can easily be harmed by oil since their ability to stay warm depends on their fur remaining clean. When oil remains on the beach for a while, other creatures, such as snails, clams, and terrestrial animals may suffer too.

Many light oils, such as gasoline and diesel, are considered to be toxic. They can kill animals or plants and they are also dangerous to humans who breathe their fumes or get it on their skin.

Go online to learn more about oil spills, and what you can do to help!

5. Lesson your carbon footprint. 



Because of ocean acidification, global warming has been a hot topic in the ocean world. When acidity of the ocean increases, it can cause devastating impacts on marine life, including plankton, corals, shellfish, and the animals that eat them.

The vast majority of the air we breathe comes from the oceans. That's why we say "if the oceans die, we die."


Marine mammals like the vaquita dolphin (only 30 left in existence due to illegal fishing in the Gulf of California) are not much different than humans. They know when they are in trouble, and they get scared.

Start researching online today to see how you can help!

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