Salt Marshes in Autumn
New England and other northerly points are renowned for the beauty of their fall leaves. Red, orange and gold foliage draws visitors from all over the country for peak viewing times. Salt marshes in temperate zones all over the United States go through much the same transformation during autumn. Dominant Spartina marsh grasses turn from a vibrant green to gold—part of the annual dieback of Spartina leaves and stalks that turns this common marsh grass into bio-mass that replenishes marsh soils and feeds hosts of microscopic organisms and larger detritivores (literally, detritus eaters) like fungi, insects, worms, and isopod crustaceans. These tiny critters then become meals for larger fish, crabs and birds, in turn.
Viewer Tip: Fall is a great time to visit or get a guided tour of your local salt marsh. Temperatures are cooler, humidity is low and the bugs are hunkering down for winter. Two great places to find more information about visiting your local marsh and estuary are the National Estuarine Research and Reserve System (NERRS) at www.nerrs.noaa.gov and The Association of National Estuary Programs (ANEP), www.nationalestuaries.org.
This tip is provided by Restore America’s Estuaries. Learn more at www.estuaries.org.