Monday, August 20, 2012

Walking the Salt Marsh

The Climate Crusader extols the beauty and diversity of a salt marsh on Canada's Pacific coast.

After reading Eco Yogini's post about the relative merits of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, I felt the need to respond from Canada's other coast. I grew up here on the Pacific ocean, and having visited Canada's Maritimes I will concede that there is a difference. It's important to remember that while Vancouver is a city on the sea, it's a city on a protected bit of ocean, since Vancouver Island lies to its west. The water is calmer, certainly. But there are some amazing habitats here, with diverse and ecologically important species.

Scenic view of Port Moody's Shoreline Trail boardwalk

I live just two kilometers, or one and quarter miles, from a Pacific salt marsh. Located on the end of an inlet, this part of the ocean is calm, protected from the wild waves you'd find in other coastal areas. It's a place where the salty ocean water meets land, and fresh water from streams and creeks. You'll find salt-tolerant plants, grasses and shrubs. When the tide is out, you'll see large tidal flats. When the tide is in, you'll see calm ocean water. While it may not have the same rugged beauty as the Atlantic, it's an extremely important habitat. Wikipedia says:
Salt marshes play a large role in the aquatic food web and the delivery of nutrients to coastal waters. They also support terrestrial animals and provide coastal protection.

Port Moody Inlet

Like many other ecosystems, salt marshes are under threat. Human development and invasive species are causing strain. As they disappear, the effects of their loss ripple through the oceans. The young fish that seek shelter in their grasses are lost. The migratory birds that visit have lost a habitat.

Beautiful day on the inletFortunately, there is a growing recognition of the importance of salt marshes, and efforts are being made in many places to protect and restore them. If you visit one, it's important that you stay on marked walkways or well-worn paths, so that you don't disturb sensitive areas. Don't pick plants or flowers, and don't litter. Back at home, don't pour chemicals down stormdrains, and don't wash your car in a place where the soap can run into the street and into the storm sewer. All of those chemicals will end up in local waterways, which can make their way into coastal areas like salt marshes.

I feel very lucky to live close to such a beautiful area. Is it better than the Atlantic? I think I would just say that it's different - and I can appreciate the beauty of both coasts.


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