Salt Marshes

Salt Marshes
Salt marshes are coastal wetlands rich in marine life, which are covered by water at least once per month. They are found in the intertidal zones along low-energy coastlines, forming along the margins of estuaries, where freshwater from the land mixes with seawater. These marshes can be found near the Great South Bay and the Long Island Sound. The entire south shore of Long Island is considered to be a salt marsh important to the health of the marine life. Beginning in Jamaica Bay and extending to Montauk Point, Long Islands salt marches help remove toxic chemicals that are caused by pollution, thus making them a vital part of the eco-system.
The Salt Marshes contain different types of grasses that grow out of the water and along the water?s edge. This grass can be seen when the tide is low and is covered by water when the tide comes in. This grass helps hold the soil together by dispersing any wave energy and creating a breeding ground for many important marine animals. Also, the plants act as a natural filter, removing any chemicals that might be in the seawater. Some of the plants that are found in salt marshes are: Salt Marsh Grass or Spartina Alterniflora and Cord grass as well as reeds, sedges and golden rod.
At low tide, nutrient-rich water flows from the marsh back into the sea, feeding the plankton upon which all other life depends. Peat, which is what the march is mostly made of, is very absorbent. In some areas, it limits coastal flooding by containing the water that comes in during a very high or storm-driven tide. Peat also acts as a filter, cleaning water by removing various compounds and either storing or breaking them down.
The salt marsh is also an important breeding ground for many species of marine life. These animals use the marsh and its tall grasses for protection from predators. Some of the marine life is: clams, mussels, shrimp, oysters and small fishes such as killies and spearing. Some mammals use the salt marsh also. These animals include: mice, skunks and many, many species of water fowl. These animals use the marsh not only as a home, but as a place to find food as well.
There are destructive forces at work against the salt marsh. While a slowly rising sea level has had some effect, the greatest destruction of salt marshes that has taken place is urban and suburban development. During the last few years, the role of salt marshes as coastal habitat has been more fully understood, however, for a long time these areas were used as dumps or filled in and built upon. . The flow of water in estuaries was limited when bridges and roads were built across them or housing built on top of them. Culverts become clogged or may be too narrow to allow adequate amounts of salt water to maintain a salt marsh. Efforts are now underway to restore some of the salt marshes in Long Island Sound. One method of revitalizing marshes is to reestablish tidal flow to wetland areas. Though many may be partially restored, there is little chance the extensive acres of marsh that have vanished from Long Island?s coast will ever be replaced. Most people barely notice coastal marshes, but are influenced by their role in our overall environment, and in providing a healthy coastal environment in particular. They are a critical factor in the complex web of life for both the oceans and land ecosystems. It is extremely important that remaining coastal marshes be protected, and rebuilt wherever possible. This is important for the environment, and for all people and marine life on earth.

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