Salt Marshes Under Siege

By Mark Bertness, et al From the American Scientist, Volume 92 pages 54 – 61. January – February 2004


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Open the word file, Salt Marshes Under Siege. Refer to this paper and answer the questions provided in this PowerPoint Presentation. The word document doesn’t have figures, they are embedded in the PPP. To access the figures, refer to the directions on slide #3 of this PPP. The questions begin on slide #4. The first few words of the relevant paragraphs are at the top of each slide. You’ll turn in your answers to me in class on 2/21/2009. No late submissions please. Hard copies only. 30 points.


Salt Marshes Suffer from Human Activity (fig. 1) To view the doc, depress the escape key and double click on “pdf” symbol. Each time you see a pdf file, do the same thing.

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“An attentive observer sees…”

1. What appears to be the dominate type of plant(s) in a salt marsh?


“A salt marsh develops when….”

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2. In a New England salt marsh, four strips of habitat usually occur in an undisturbed community. What are they? A. B. C. D.


New England Salt Marshes (fig. 2)

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“Beyond beauty, salt marshes serve as….”

3. What are three benefits provided by healthy salt marshes? A. B. C.

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“Today, these fertile ecosystems….”

3. What is the “trio of troubles” facing salt marshes? A. B. C.

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“Despite the ecological importance of salt marshes…”

4. In New England, how did the early colonist use salt marshes?


Ditches Helped Colonial-Era Farmers (fig. 3)

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“Evidence for the loss….”

5. Over the centuries, how much of the southern New England salt marshes have been lost?


“Even more trouble lies ahead…”

6. How might global warming contribute to the decline of the salt marshes?


“Global warming also causes thermal…”

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7. What are three possible consequences of global warming? A. B. C.


“Although global warming and a rising…”

8. What kept Phragmites out of the marshes?


Phragmites (reed) Dominates Some New England Salt Marshes

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“Then developers changed the character…”

9. How has the introduction of the reed, Phragmites degraded the salt marshes?


“The reason for the shift…”

10. When nitrogen was no longer limiting, the competitive balance shifted. What happen?


“In addition, the development-related….”

11. Why did the cordgrass move to higher elevations thus displacing other grasses?


“A striking relationship exists….”

12. How is Phragmites distribution and development correlated?


“Overall, local shoreline development …”

13. What has happen to plant diversity? Which two plants make up the bulk of the primary production?


“The Hudson Bay Lowland – one of…”

14. In the spring, what mid – continent birds visit this region ( HBL)? Why are they there?


Lesser Snow Geese Annually Migrate to Hudson Bay Salt Marshes (fig. 5)

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“Lesser snow geese can exert a strong….”

15. The lesser snow geese can make a very positive impact on the marshes’ primary productivity. How so?


“Three decades ago….”

16. Three decades ago, if an area of the marsh was kept free of geese, what happen to the community? Why?


“According to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife….”

17. By what factor has the light geese population changed?


18. In the past what was the limiting factor for the geese during the Winter?


“After a winter of good eating…”

19. Approximately how many square meters of marsh can be removed by the goose population in one hour?

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One km2 = (1000x1000)m2 = 1,000,000m2 How many km2 of marsh is removed per hour?


“Damage also develops…”

20. Why do the geese eat the bases of the sedges and discard the rest?


“The grazing causes a second positive…”

21. What are two physical changes to the soil that are brought about by goose grazing?


Geese Can Turn Marshes to Mud Flats (fig. 6)

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“Salty and anoxic soil prevents…”

22. Once the grasses and sedges are removed by over–grazing, why is it difficult for marshes to recover?


“Even if grazing presure were to…”

23.How has agricultural abundance located 5000 km to the south adversely affected Arctic communities? .


“The geese of the Hudson Bay Lowlands…”

24. How have the geese challenged widely held beliefs about the dynamics of salt marsh ecosystems?


“For another example of consumer impact…”

25. In the marshes of Georgia and the Carolinas, what plant is the predominant primary producer? According to Odum and Teal, how are these marshes regulated? How is does Spartina’s energy and biomass enter the food chain?


“On Sapelo Island and other marshes…”

26. In these marshes, what is one of the most conspicuous and abundant invertebrates? How have ecologists long considered Littoraria’s role in the marsh? Where is the greatest density of Littoraria found?


Figure 7. Marsh snail makes its home in salt marshes from Virginia to the Gulf of Mexico

SMSiege pic7.pdf

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“Early marsh ecologists assumed…”

27. How does snail grazing lead to cordgrass injury and death?


Figure 8. Trophic Cascade Controls Salt Marsh

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“Two of us (Silliman and Bertness)…”

28. What is the evidence cited that supports Littoraria’s consumer impact on the marshes? (two)


“Typically, other consumers…”

29. On the seaward side of the marsh, what controls the snail population?


“These results suggest that a so-called…”

30. Describe the marsh’s “trophic cascade”.


“Sea otters of the Eastern Pacific…”

31. Describe the trophic cascade involving Sea Otters.


“A similar relationship exists between…”

32. Why can blue crabs be considered a “keystone species” in the salt marshes of the Carolinas and Georgia?


“As these examples revel, salt marshes…”

33. Salt marshes along the Atlantic coast are in peril. What must happen in order to save them?