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Salt Marshes: Unique Ecosystems Essay

1664 words - 7 pages

Eradication of the nutria is almost impossible at this point but conservationists are still doing their best to try and control them. Nutria are year around open season for hunters and some places will even pay you to bring in their pelts.
Another invasive species that destroys the salt marsh is the feral pig. The feral pig escaped from domestication stock and can be found on 38% of the continent. Like the nutria, the feral pig can have up to 13 piglets and gestation period of 115 days. Feral pigs are more of a nuisance because they are able to make more of an impact on the vegetation. They are larger and consume more than the nutria. They are also open season year around to try and control their population.
Salt marshes are considered on of the most productive ecosystems in the world competing against the rain forest (Keddy, 2010). The surrounding river systems are constantly bringing in new sediments being one of the reasons why they are so successful. The rivers are not the only reason why salt marshes are so successful, wetlands produce their own organic matter and oxygen to help fuel the surrounding areas. We have talked about the different types of plants found within the salt marsh and the flora-fauna interactions between them; they play a big part with the primary production in the salt marsh. There are two sides to the food web in a salt marsh, the detritivores and the grazers. The grazers in a typical salt marsh will consume 10% of primary production, compare that to the 1% consumed in deciduous forests (Keddy, 2010).
Decomposers, such as bacteria and microfauna, take up the rest of the 90% of primary production. The primary production left over that has not been consumed by the grazers or decomposers is turned into peat (Keddy, 2010). The food web in the salt marsh is a two-part process that relies on the grazers and detritivores. The vascular plants are consumed by the primary consumers (herbivores), which are then consumed by the secondary consumers (birds and small mammals), and are then predated on by the tertiary consumers (large predatory fish). The other side of the food web is when the vascular plants decay and are now detritus consumed by the primary consumers (algae, microfauna, and meiofauna), which are then consumed by the secondary consumers (crabs, mussels, and snails), and are then predated on by the tertiary consumers (large predatory fish).
Humans have had many impacts on the salt marshes by degrading them, industrialization, and mosquito control. Salt marshes performing as a buffer were mentioned earlier, when humans try to farm over that buffer threshold flooding becomes more intense and we revert to having to move livestock and cars to higher ground. We destroyed these flood plains and we complain about it flooding. The flood plains, such as a salt marsh, have been altered for years starting with the first settlers draining the salt marshes for farmland described as “first class land, fit to produce any kind of...

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