< Coastal Ecosystem

SUBSTRATE:  Brackish, often waterlogged, largely anaerobic, sandy sediment.

TOPOGRAPHY:   Relatively flat, intertidal areas on, or sloping up slightly from, permanent water edge.

VEGETATION / ALGAE:  Nonwoody, salt-tolerant plants; principal species are smooth cordgrass (on Atlantic side) and black needlerush; above mean high water level are numerous vascular plant species in addition to black needlerush; several hundred species of benthic microalgae and phytoplankton; a few species of large, multicellular seaweeds; occasional mangroves in warmer areas.

FAUNA:  Abundant food and cover for resident and transient animals; nursery grounds for many fish and shellfish of commercial and recreational importance; many visiting birds and three exclusive residentsclapper rails, long-billed marsh wrens, and seaside sparrows; endangered Atlantic salt marsh snake.

PROCESSES / DYNAMICS / ABIOTIC FACTORS:  Rate of net primary production of organic matter among highest of any global ecosystem; aerial habitat above water dominated by marsh grasses and insect / spider / bird food webs.

HUMAN IMPACTS:  Little alteration before 1940s; most extensive impact has been from water impoundment and ditching for mosquito control; dumping of domestic and industrial liquid and solid waste, including dredged materials, is also a serious threat.

ANIMALS AND PLANTS NATIVE TO ECOSYSTEM: List of selectable animals and plants native to the Salt Marshes ecosystem, with detailed descriptions and pictures on each.

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