NE CSC Investigator featured in Scientific American: The Not-So-Mysterious Loss of Salt Marshes and Ecosystem Services

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Healthy salt marsh creeks at Plum Island Estuary, Massachusetts, are lined with lush, smooth cordgrass. The plant’s below-ground roots and above-ground leaves build and maintain salt marshes. Credit: David S. Johnson

Salt marshes are among the most ecologically productive and diverse ecosystems in the United States. They provide important services such as floodwater storage and storm protection for coastal cities such as New Orleans. Healthy marshes also serve essential roles in carbon sequestration, a service of primary concern at current emission rates of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, nutrient removal and water purification. 

However, global climate change and sea level rise, agricultural and industrial development and loss of sediment supply are contributing to dramatic rates of wetland loss worldwide. In the Gulf Coast region, these and other factors – many still largely under-studied – are driving salt marsh loss at unprecedented rates. While salt marches are famously valued for their function in nutrient removal, improving water quality by filtering runoff and removing sediment, nutrients, pesticides, metals, and other pollutants [3], new research suggests that these marshes are not impervious to the damaging effects of natural and artificial nutrient accumulation.

---> Read full article from Scientific American, "The Not-So-Mysterious Loss of Salt Marshes and Ecosystem Services"

---> Nature article by Deegan et al., 2012

---> Nature News and Views, "Ecology: The big picture of marsh loss"

---> Press Release from Marine Biological Laboratory, "Why are our salt marshes falling apart?"