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Bio 126 Marsh and Wetlands. Current state:. In California we have lost 90% of our wetlands. Much of the Great Central valley was a seasonal marsh. Our Largest lakes with miles of marshy shoreline were by Bakersfield. They had 2,100 miles of marshy shoreline.

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Bio 126 Marsh and Wetlands

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Bio 126 marsh and wetlands

Bio 126Marsh and Wetlands

Bio 126 marsh and wetlands

Current state:

  • In California we have lost 90% of our wetlands

  • Much of the Great Central valley was a seasonal marsh

  • Our Largest lakes with miles of marshy shoreline were by Bakersfield. They had 2,100 miles of marshy shoreline

  • 40% of the SF Bay has been filled in with land.

  • Rivers have been channelized, shoreline reduced

Types of marshes

Types of Marshes:

  • Salt water – marine or sea water marshes – along bays and sea shore

  • Mangrove swamps, important for island building in warm waters

  • Brackish – mix of salt or sea water and fresh water – locations may vary by seasonal flow

  • Estuaries – river meets a bay, or sea

  • Fresh water – along streams and lakes

Ecological roles of wetlands

Ecological Roles of Wetlands:

  • High productivity

  • Filters water – Laminar flow

  • Fisheries

  • Migrating & resident birds

    • Food, cover, nesting sites

  • Traps nutrients, pollutants

Salt marsh plants

Salt Marsh Plants

  • Halophytes at leading edge

    • Plants adapted to salty conditions

    • Many have Salt glands

    • Succulents have swollen tissues that store water – like Pickleweed

Anatomy of salt marsh

Anatomy of Salt Marsh

  • Open sea water

  • Mudflats – still under water

  • Salt marsh – above ground by inches, right next to mudflats.

    • Salt content of soil high

  • Fresh water marsh, higher up, and farther back from mud flats

    • Salt content of soil very low



  • Forms new land by silting,

  • Limited by high-tide line

    • Area still under water at high tides

  • Wind blows dust, plant trap sediments settling down & slowly build up soil

  • Differences in compaction create tidal meanders – deeper channels

  • Highest salt content – same as sea

  • Eel grass and sea lettuce- dominants

  • Wading birds eat animals in mud

Salt marsh edge with sea water

Salt Marsh edge with sea water

  • Cordgrass dominates

    • Hollow stems, 2-3 ft. tall

    • Rhizomes trap detritus, and sediments add to soil

  • Highly productive

    • Has nitrogen fixing bacteria in roots

  • Few things eat cordgrass

  • Fuels a detrivore based food chain

  • Decays in mud, microorganism eat detritus

  • Worms, snails, fish larvae eat microorganisms

  • Birds, larger fish, eat worms etc.

Salt marsh farther inland

Salt Marsh farther inland

  • Salt in soil is less than 2%

  • Saltgrass most common

  • Other salt-tolerant species may be present such as:

    • Saltbush

    • Sea Blite

    • Marsh Grindelia – a “gum weed”

Fresh water marsh

Fresh Water Marsh

  • On inflow of creeks into salt marshes

  • Around lakes streams inland

  • Deltas of rivers

Fresh water marsh plants

Fresh Water Marsh Plants

  • Floating plants – microphytes

    • Duckweed and Water-ferns

    • Water hyacinth an introduce weedy species

  • Tule – Bullrush small spike of flowers and seeds

    • Triangular stems up to 6 ft.

  • Cattails – column of small flowers / feather seeds

    • Round hollow stems up to 10 ft.

    • Can not tolerate water deeper than 4 ft.

  • Shrubs and Trees – Riparian areas

    • may include Willows, Alder, Cottonwood, Sycamore

Bio 126 marsh and wetlands

A Saltwater Marsh in California

Good website to view marshplants

Good website to view marshplants

  • mudslough/mudplants.html

Cord grass

Cord grass



Marsh grindelia gumplant

Marsh GrindeliaGumplant



Bull rush tule

Bull rush - Tule

Marsh birds

Marsh Birds

  • Northern Harrier

  • Rails

  • Black Phoebe

  • Kingfishers

  • Egrets, Herons

  • Ducks

  • Western Meadowlark

  • Smaller Waders: Stilts, Avocet, Peeps Brewers and Red-winged Black birds

Northern harrier the marsh hawk

Northern Harrier the marsh Hawk

Great egret

Great Egret

Snowy egret

Snowy Egret

Great blue heron

Great Blue Heron

Green heron

Green Heron

Belted kingfisher

Belted Kingfisher

American white pelican

American White Pelican

Canvasback duck

Canvasback Duck

Lesser scuap

Lesser Scuap

Ruddy duck

Ruddy Duck

Pintail duck

Pintail Duck

American wigeon

American Wigeon

Common golden eye

Common Golden Eye

Barrow s golden eye

Barrow’s Golden Eye

Northern shoveler

Northern Shoveler

Pied billed grebe

Pied Billed Grebe



Double crested cormorant

Double Crested Cormorant

American avocet

American Avocet

Black necked stilt

Black necked Stilt



Green winged teal

Green winged teal

Blue winged teal

Blue winged teal

Cinnamon teal

Cinnamon Teal

Experimental field research in marsh ecology

Experimental field research in Marsh Ecology

Other marsh animals

Other Marsh Animals

  • Black-tailed Jack Rabbit

  • Tule Elk

  • Racoons

  • Skunks

  • Muskrats

  • Otters

  • Salt Marsh Harvest Mouse

  • Norway Rats

  • Introduced red fox – hunts marsh birds

Bio 126 marsh and wetlands

  • Harrier, Northern

A new dawn for the delta

A new Dawn for the Delta

  • Glen Martin

  • SF Chronicle December 30, 2005

Bio 126 marsh and wetlands

  • SAN FRANCISCO BAY Bonanza of birds on the bay Tidal marshes' recovery has brought record counts

  • Jane Kay, Chronicle Environment Writer

  • Saturday, March 26, 2005

Bio 126 marsh and wetlands

  • SAN FRANCISCO BAY Bay researchers try to mow down enemy Invasive hybrid weed is suffocating mudflat habitats

  • Glen Martin, Chronicle Environment Writer

  • Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Spartina alternifolia atlantic smooth cord grass

Spartina alternifolia-Atlantic Smooth Cord Grass

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