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Salt Bogs - biotic viewpoints

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  1. Salt Marshes-biotic perspectives Maia McGuire, PhD Florida Sea Grant Extension Agent

  2. What is a salt marsh? • “A community of emerged halophytic vegetation in areas alternately inundated and drained by tidal action.” • “Expansive inter- or supratidal areas occupied by rooted emergent vascular macrophytes and a variety of epiphytes and epifauna.” Emerged: sticking out of the water; Halophytic: salt-loving; Inundated: flooded; macrophyte: plant that’s large enough to see; epiphyte: plant growing on another organism but not a parasite; epifauna: animal version of epiphyte

  3. Where are salt marshes found? • Along intertidal shore of estuaries • Flat, protected waters • Extensive from Maine-Florida, along Gulf coast from Florida-Texas • In FL, most abundant north of the freeze line (70% of state’s salt marsh)

  4. The salt marsh community • Plants • Marsh grasses • Associated halophytic (salt-tolerant) plants • Animals • Permanent residents • Visitors

  5. Salt marsh grasses • Spartina alterniflora • Smooth cord grass • Juncus roemerianus • Black needle rush • Cladium mariscoides • Swamp sawgrass • Spartina patens • Salt meadow cord grass

  6. Associated plants • Many are succulent • Exceptions include saltgrass • Many are edible (saltwort, glasswort, sea purslane) • Form transitional zone between salt marsh and maritime hammock

  7. Salt marsh zonation • Intertidal—Spartina, Juncus • High marsh (above mean high water)—Distichlis spicata, Batis maritima, Salicornia spp., Borrichia sp., Suedalinearis, Limonium carolinanum • Upper edge of high marsh—Iva frutescens, Baccharis halmifolia • Marsh-mangrove transition zone

  8. Resident animals • Littorina irrorata • Marsh periwinkle (snail) • Crabs • Fiddler crabs (Uca spp.) • Marsh crabs (Sesarma spp.) • Geukensia demissa • Ribbed mussel

  9. Tidal Marsh Visitors • Birds • Crabs • Shrimp • Fish • Diamondback terrapin

  10. The majority of commercially-important marine species rely on estuaries/salt marsh at some stage of life • Examples include blue crab, oysters, hard clams, shrimp, red drum, seatrout, sheepshead, bluefish, mullet

  11. Importance of salt marshes • Productivity • Habitat • Erosion control • Filtration

  12. Productivity • Biological term—amount of carbon produced per m² per unit time • 3 kg (ash free dry weight)/m²/year • Limiting factors include nutrients, light • Salt marsh plants provide detritus for the estuarine food web • Few grazers on blades (< 10% of biomass) • Large detrital biomass supports broad food web

  13. Partial salt marsh food web Dolphins Humans Fish Birds Oysters Insects Mussels Shrimp Crabs Snails Marsh grass Zooplankton Bacteria, fungi Detritus Phytoplankton

  14. Habitat • Nursery grounds • Feeding grounds • Microhabitats • Aerial • Benthic • Aquatic • Stressful environment • Rapid changes in temperature, salinity, water depth, dissolved oxygen • Sedimentation

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