Georgia coastal fish Identification

Armadillos are exotic species

Estimates of Georgia's total tidal marshland acreage vary. In 1977 the National Aeronautics and Space Administration reported that Georgia had 429, 294 acres of tidal marshland, more than any other state on the East Coast. The study, however, did not distinguish between salt marsh and freshwater marsh. The Georgia Department of Natural Resources estimates that the state encompasses more than 378, 000 acres of salt marsh.

Georgia's salt marshes are some of the most biologically productive natural systems on Earth. They produce nearly twenty tons of biomass to the acre—which makes them four times more productive than the most carefully cultivated cornfields, according to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. The enormous productivity helps to make the salt marshes primary nursery areas for blue crabs, oysters, shrimp, and other economically important fish and shellfish. Young shrimp and other marine organisms also use salt marshes as shelters and hiding places from predators. In addition, salt marshes help filter pollutants from the water and act as buffers against offshore storms. The potential damage from large storm-spawned waves and tides is greatly reduced when they pass over the marshes.The origin of the salt marshes can be traced to the Pleistocene geologic epoch that began about 18, 000 years ago. Rising sea levels from melting continental glaciers created shallow lagoons behind young barrier islands. Ocean currents and tidal rivers flowing into the quiet lagoons deposited large amounts of clay and sand sediments there. Gradually, the sediments built up to the degree that they were no longer underwater at low tide.The muddy soils then became fertile ground for one of the world's most salt-tolerant plants, Spartina alterniflora, or smooth cordgrass. Spartina took root in the lagoonal sediments and flourished. Today, vast expanses of Spartina dominate Georgia's salt marshes.Georgia's twice-a-day tides are the lifeblood of the salt marshes. Incoming tides bring in nutrients from estuaries connected by tidal creeks to the marshes. The nutrients nourish and feed the grasses of the marsh. Outgoing tides carry nutritious marsh products—including detritus produced from decaying Spartina —back into the estuaries. There, the products help to sustain large numbers of other marine organisms. The outgoing tides also remove wastes from the marsh.

Salt Marsh Zones

The salt marsh may appear to be a homogenous, table-flat expanse of grass. But biologists usually divide the salt marsh into ecological zones, which are based on increasing elevation from creek banks to the landward edge of the marsh. With each change in elevation, tide inundation is to a lesser depth and for a shorter period of time. The height of Spartina and the length of time it is exposed to saltwater also vary in each zone.

Zones in Georgia's salt marshes usually include creek bank, low marsh, high marsh, salt pan, marsh hammock, and marsh border community. Spartina is at its most luxuriant, growing as tall as ten feet, along creek banks. There, the tides bring in abundant nutrients and clay and sand sediments and efficiently wash away salt, dead matter, and other waste.

Adjacent to creek banks are natural levees, which build up when the high tides overflow the banks and deposit sediments. Spartina grows three to four feet atop the levees. Behind the levees is the low marsh zone, where Spartina also grows about three to four feet tall. Though the tides flood this zone several hours a day, it does not get as many nutrients and sediments as the upper creek bank. The only other plants in the low marsh zone are algae, especially blue-green algae and diatoms. The sand content of the soil is less than 10 percent.

The high marsh zone is closer to land. Only a few inches of elevation may separate it from the low marsh zone. Spartina is only a foot or so tall in the high marsh. Soil sand content is about 10-70 percent. Seawater inundates only an hour or so each day in the high marsh. The soil usually is saltier than the low marsh because of poor tidal flushing. In the areas of high marsh closest to land, however, freshwater runoff may have considerable influence on the vegetation. Here, Spartina must compete with other salt-tolerant plants like glasswort, needlerush, saltbush, and sandwort. About 18 percent of Georgia's salt marshes are composed primarily of needlerush (Juncus roemerianus).

Salt pans are small barren areas of the high marsh too saline for any vegetation to grow. They form where evaporation concentrates large amounts of salts in the marsh soil.

Marsh hammocks are actually marsh islands, the only dry land in the marsh. Living there are trees like red cedar and wax myrtle and other plants like cactus, saw palmetto, yaupon holly, and yucca. About 1, 200 hammocks dot Georgia's salt marshes. Some are only a fraction of an acre in size; some cover more than 1, 000 acres and support maritime forests.

Only the highest of tides that occur once or twice a month reach the marsh border community, a transition zone between marsh and upland areas. Growing here are groundsel bush, marsh elder, sea ox-eye daisy, and other plants and shrubs able to withstand strong wind, salt spray, and an occasional inch or so of saltwater.

Salt Marsh Processes

All marsh soils are anaerobic, or without oxygen, except for the first few millimeters of the surface and around Spartina roots and crab and worm burrows. Anaerobic bacteria living in the soil are responsible for the breakdown of accumulated organic matter. The bacteria break down the organic matter into ammonium, hydrogen sulfide, methane, and other products. Hydrogen sulfide gives the salt marsh its characteristic rotten-egg odor. Red streaks in marsh mud also indicate the presence of oxidized iron, a common and important element in the marsh.

Spartina is responsible for most of the food produced in the salt marsh. Less than 10 percent of the living plant is consumed directly by insects, snails, and other organisms. But when Spartina dies in the fall, bacteria and fungi break it down into minute particles called detritus. Washed into the tidal creeks and estuaries at high tide, the detritus becomes the most important part of the estuarine food web. The minute, decaying grass particles create a nutritious "soup" that feeds clams, crabs, small fish, oysters, plankton, and shrimp.

Phytoplankton, which are tiny free-floating green plants in the water column, and microalgae known as diatoms, which coat the mud's surface, also contribute significantly to marsh and estuarine food production. They produce their own food through photosynthesis and are consumed by other organisms, including larval forms of marine creatures, which support even larger animals.


Pelican Publishing Angler's Guide to Fishes of the Gulf of
Book (Pelican Publishing)
  • Used Book in Good Condition

Catching WHITES -2

2004-12-18 13:02:57 by WHites

Lake whitefish generally spawn in the late autumn just prior to freeze-up in shallow water (often less than 25 feet), usually over a hard or stony bottom, but sometimes over sand. Spawning can occur under the ice in some lakes, however. What does this tell you? Well, like most fish, spent adults are hungry following the spawning season. Often the best lake whitefish catches are shortly after they spawn in the month of December, just when the ice is safe to travel on. Use caution on ice and always test the conditions. Never walk on ice that is less than four inches thick and don't drive on ice that is less than 12 inches thick


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