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Inland Salt Marsh
Transcript of Inland Salt Marsh
Plants that live in the salt marsh and surrounding areas
Invasive species in the surrounding area
This is the salt marsh from across the river that is no longer functioning and is now invaded by Phragmites. More research on hydrological changes at both sites are needed to determine conservation strategies for the future to protect the hydrological integrity of the surrounding watershed. According to 25 years of observation at the site, the open seepage has decreased considerably.
Maple River Inland Salt Marsh
Location of the
This salt marsh is located on the Maple River State Game Area in Clinton County, Michigan and is the only intact inland salt marsh in the state
It's a wetland thousands of miles from the nearest ocean, yet it has salt water. This water originates from a deep saline aquifer that has been exposed due to thin glacial drift areas along the river.
It just looks like a muddy puddle.Why is the inland salt marsh so special?
There are distinct salt lines where the salt water has evaporated at the edges of the seep, leaving a residue of salt to cover plants and the soil.
Hunting is popular, as the open salt seep attracts many animals including deer and ducks, and the evidence of humans having been there is noticeable.
This area is maintained and governed by the Department of Natural Resources, but there doesn't appear to be any active management occurring.
Several species are indicators of the Maple River Salt Marsh
Olney's bulrush (Schoenoplecutus americanus) is not commonly found in Michigan, except for this location. It is the dominant plant in the open area surrounding the salt marsh and is mixed in with the cattails (Probably Typha latifolia x angustifolia)
Spikerush (Eleocharis erythropoda) is a salt tolerant plant also not commonly found in Michigan. Here, most of it was trampled down by deer around the edge of the seep.
This small plant, dwarf spikerush (Eleocharis parvula), is incredibly rare in Michigan, and is seen here growing directly in the "deeper" waters of the salt seep.
Atriplex patula (Spearscale)
This is a low lying plant that is found commonly throughout the marsh. According to the USDA, it is also considered an invasive species
Cattails (Typha sp.), most likely a hybrid between T. latifolia and T. angustifolia
This plant normally has white flowers, but by the fall it has senesced. The leaves are broad and oppositely arranged. They are joined at their bases where the stem perforates them.
A Little bit of History
In 1837, several men, including a Robert Parks, bought up land around the Maple River. Soon there were rumors of salt, and Parks and his men created the "Clinton Salt Works Co" for the purpose of manufacturing salt from a salt seep north of the river banks, despite that many claimed the salt was planted there as a sunk salt barrel in the Maple River. As a part of the company, they established the "Clinton County Salt Works Bank". But the salt didn't pay out, since a barrel of salt cost 50 cents to a dollar, and both the bank and company folded. When the bank collapsed, the whole state fell into financial turmoil. This ended the manufacturing of salt along the Maple River.
Geneologists of the Clinton County Historical Society. Clinton County Trails 9.4 (1994): n. pag. Web. 1 Nov. 2013. <http://www.dewittlibrary.org/CCHS/news/cct9-4.pdf>.
Clinton County Salt works location at a salt seep across the river that is no longer intact.
Intact salt marsh
Clinton Salt Works Money from 1941
The peat, muck, or mineral soils are saturated through much of the year, and may be covered due to seasonal and annual fluctuations
Animals also use the Salt Marsh
Insects such as caterpillars
Evidence of mammals
Deer trails were very evident throughout the marsh. The salt seep attracts the deer, as they enjoy the salt taste and use it for nutrients.
How did the species get to the salt marsh?
Directions to the Salt Marsh:
Head South on U.S. 127 towards Lansing. Turn West onto 57 and continue for approximately 10 miles. Take a Left (South) onto Bliss Road/549 and follow for 6 miles, during which it turns into N. Tallman Road. After crossing the Maple River, there is a parking lot area on the right, and West Island Road on the left. Park on the right hand/west side of the road shortly after and walk down the embankment. Follow just below the ridge for approximately 0.4 miles, and the salt marsh will be in an open area at GPS coordinates 43d05’05.62” N 84d45’56.22 W, elevation 646 ft. Open seepage is near the southwest corner of marsh.
Autumn Olive will always have silvery scales and alternate leaves, and red berries are common. It negatively affects plant communities that are adapted to low nutrient levels, since it fixes nitrogen so well.
Moneywort can have a yellow flower of 5 petals. It can be spread vegetatively by stems, and fragments can be spread by water.
Rosa multiflora is dispersed easily by birds and animals eating the rose hips. It is easily identifiable by the presence of recurved thorns.
Not many species are adapted to living in high salt concentrations, so there is not a high diversity of species within the halozone.
Currently the theory that is most widely accepted is that birds brought the seeds of these plants and other halophytes from the Atlantic Coast, but research still has yet to be conducted to find out where the population originated from.
Conclusions gained from this project
Other research is also needed to study the role of fire in the inland salt marsh system. Since fire has not been present for quite some time, the herbaceous cover has become very dense. This could have caused the decline or local extinction of some halophytes in the area if fire was not able to provide a limiting growth factor in the system.
Other references used in the making of this project:
For a complete description of the features in this presentation, I used the Michigan Natural Features Inventory abstracts for the Inland Salt Marsh, Natural Communities of Michigan, and Invasive Species report. (http://mnfi.anr.msu.edu/pub/abstracts.cfm)
CMC Herbarium at Central Michigan University (http://cmcherbarium.bio.cmich.edu/)
The USDA Plants database also provided more plant descriptions and help in describing the plant species present (http://plants.usda.gov/java/)
All photos were taken by ©Heather Dame unless otherwise noted.
The CMC herbarium contained many pieces of information I needed to complete this project. I was able to look at once live specimens before heading out in the field to make identification easier. Also, if I found a plant there that was not identifiable, I could take a photo and use herbarium specimens to identify them, since we could not collect at the site.
The specimens present in the herbarium can be used to look back at diversity documented at that site through time, and see what plants were present in the past.
Reflections on this project
A Schoenoplectus americanus specimen from the New York Botanical Garden herbarium online. These specimens could be valuable tools to look closely at morphology and genetic differences between populations.
There are not many invasives that reside in the salt marsh, but there were several present in the surrounding area.
More research is needed into the invertebrate and herpetological fauna in the Maple River Salt Marsh
Unmounted specimens of Schoenoplectus americanus collected from the Maple River Salt Marsh in 2006
Eleocharis erythropoda specimens were used to learn species identification before going into the field
Sweet Flag (Acorus calamus)
Credit – http://michiganflora.net/species.aspx?id=5
This plant can be recognized by its easily seen spadix of flowers and sweet smell. We did not see one on our visit, although we could smell the remnants of the presence of one at a hole where a bear had dug one up.
The ray flowers are generally white to blue in color
The two species of cattails easily hybridize with each other, and it becomes difficult to identify if cattails present are hybrids or not.
Small white flowers are organized in loosely flowered racemes
In doing the research part of this project, I was able to use a variety of resources to build the story surrounding the Inland salt marsh. There is a lot of virtual data available online to aid in the discovery of information on the salt marsh. Michigan Flora online (michiganflora.net) provided keys and photos to help prepare me for the trip, since I prepared an abbreviated plant guide of plants to find before the visit. NatureServe Explorer (natureserve.org/explorer/) provided information regarding the big picture ecology of the system, and the Midwest Invasive Species Information Network (www.misin.msu.edu) provided invasive species facts.
Visiting this specific field site was very valuable, since the inland salt marsh is a very unique community. As I am familiar to New England coastal salt marshes, I enjoyed being able to mentally compare the two and see the similarities and differences between them. The smell was the same in both places, which cannot be described well in words. Also, because of water fluctuations, the look of the marsh can be different from year to year, so written descriptions are not fully dependable to provide a snapshot of the system at any particular time. For instance, the MNFI abstract states that Eleocharis parvula hadn't been seen in the area in many years, but upon examination in the seep area and plant identification, we did find the plant in the deeper waters. It was also valuable to see first hand the zones of plants present in the salt marsh, since there was a clear delineation between the forested woods and gramminoid dominated salt marsh.
Archived museum specimens, such as in herbaria, are extremely valuable when conducting research like this project. Although we couldn't collect plants, I was able to take photos and compare them to herbarium specimens to be able to identify plants as a secondary source of comparison. Different field guides sometimes use vocabulary to mean different things, so interpretation of them is occasionally difficult. But with herbarium specimens, we are able to locate what a particular structure should look like and compare a collected plant with it. Natural history collections can also hold important genetic material in older specimens that can be used to look at population structure through space and time. Archives can provide a piece of the snapshot of the past to aid in explaining why the present is in the condition it is in. For instance, genealogical records unearthed that the old salt works were at the old salt marsh across the river and may have contributed to its ecological collapse.
This water plantain was found in the nearby floodplain forest, but it can also be found in the marsh itself.
S. americanus and S. pungens look very similar in appearance. They have also been known to hybridize, which makes identification of these species even more difficult. S. pungens, shown here in a specimen from the CMC herbarium, has a longer bract above its 3-5 spikelets. S. americanus has more than 3 spikelets and a much shorter bract.
The culms are only 2-6 cm tall, and it grows in clumps. There is a single spike on the top of the culm, which has spikelets of 2-5 mm in length.
The river bulrush, Bolboschoenus fluviatilis, is also prevalent at this site, since it is a salt-tolerant plant also.
Photo credit: http://michiganflora.net/species.aspx?id=891