Biodiversity Improves Drought Resilience of Salt Marshes

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Sapelo Island, Georgia salt marsh during a 2016 drought. Credit: Christine Angelini

A team of researchers from the University of Florida have just identified a key example of protective biodiversity. They noticed that during a drought, while most salt marsh grasses quickly die off some small patches of grass remain.

When they examined the surviving patches of grass, they found that the patches were heavily surrounded (“paved”) with ribbed mussels. The community of mussels is able to trap water effectively around the base of the salt marsh grasses, protecting it from the effects of drought.

In fact, when the drought is over, the patches of surviving salt marsh grass are able to quickly repopulate the area. The salt marsh is able to return to their health it had prior to the drought.

 

Food for thought:

What are the mussels getting out of this relationship?

Does this mean we should transplant mussels into other drought affected salt marshes?

 

Leave your thoughts in the comments!

 

Article adapted from: “Biodiversity in Salt Marshes Builds Climate Resilience.” NSF News. National Science Foundation. http://www.nsf.gov/discoveries/disc_summ.jsp?cntn_id=189416&WT.mc_id=USNSF_51&WT.mc_ev=click.

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