Salt Marsh Migration

Our Doris Duke Conservation Scholars are taking part in conservation internships all over the US this summer and are guest blogging at L-C-Ideas to keep us up to speed on what they’re doing. Keep checking back for more!

Salt Marsh Migration

By Vincent, Radha, and Taylor


These loblolly pine trees reside on higher elevation marsh lands. As you navigate to lower lying areas you can see where increased salinity has killed trees.

Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge:

  • BNWR is a natural salt marsh area in Maryland that serves as a protective barrier for coastal communities and farmland throughout the region.
  • Storms and sea level rise associated with climate change have flooded communities and salt marshes in the eastern shore of Maryland near BNWR.
  • Marsh lands are migrating inland due to sea level rise and saltwater intrusion into the uplands. Lower elevation areas are most vulnerable.


Disturbed farmland. The brown area was sprayed to kill invasive Phragmites australis.

For the second day of our trip on the eastern shore, we toured local farm communities to observe the ecological damage. Within the last ten years alone 1,500 acres of farmland have been lost. Water running off of farms is high in nitrate and phosphorus due to numerous fertilizers applied on the land. Nutrient rich water entering the Chesapeake Bay is the cause of eutrophication, or poor water quality. In addition, in areas of high nutrient load and disturbed soils, the invasive plant Phragmites australis grows. Phragmites is a weed that reduces salt marsh plant biodiversity and can be very difficult to get rid of.

“But it’s just some grass who cares?
We have plenty of other farms that we can use.”

Screen Shot 2015-06-11 at 11.34.46 AMAs Phragmites continue to ravage the land they take up space that could be used for our commodity crops that we all love such as corn, wheat, and soy. These lands are important not only to the local farm economy but to our national food security. Farmers within the area have entire livelihoods dependent on these lands. Many farmers are unwilling to give up these lands to government sponsored ecological succession programs.

FloodedFarmlandFarms such as this one above produce large quantities of crops such as soy and corn. This farm has been exposed to salt water through flooding. The likelihood of producing a quality yield is unknown.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *