Salt Marsh Essay
Salt marshes play vital roles in coastal areas, such as Westhampton, Southampton, Hampton Bays, and many other locations. Let’s look at the global effects of salt marshes. A study from September of this year published in UVAToday shows that the carbon stored in salt marshes may help in slowing global climate change. Carbon dioxide is the predominant so-called “greenhouse gas” that acts as sort of an atmospheric blanket, trapping the Earth’s heat. Over time, an abundance of carbon dioxide can change the global climate, according to generally accepted scientific theory. A warmer climate melts polar ice, causing sea levels to rise. Salt marshes, made up primarily of grasses, are important coastal ecosystems, helping to protect shorelines from storms and providing habitat for a diverse range of wildlife, from birds to mammals, shell- and finfishes and mollusks. They also build up coastal elevations by trapping sediment during floods, and produce new soil from roots and decaying organic matter. Salt marshes store enormous quantities of carbon, essential to plant productivity, by, in essence, breathing in the atmospheric carbon and then using it to grow, flourish and increase the height of the soil. Even as the grasses die, the carbon remains trapped in the sediment.
Salt marshes can be extremely difficult places to live because of wide daily fluctuations in salinity, water, temperature, and oxygen. Few plants have evolved adaptations to cope with the extreme conditions of salt marshes. Plant zonation in a salt marsh results from species-specific adaptations to physical and chemical conditions. In the first zone, the Salt Meadow (aka High Marsh), the soil is waterlogged, and grasses such a Spartina p. and Phragmites c. are abundant. Within the Salt Meadow are the Salt Flats. The Salt Flats are typically on the landward side of the marsh and are almost always waterlogged. The next zone is the Cordgrass Marsh, or Low...