What are marshes - Definition, Fauna and Flora

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Those who love ecology and curious who wish to know more information about the different ecosystems of our beloved planet cannot miss this complete article. From Ecologist Verde we have compiled all the information you should know about the marshes, a little-known but most interesting phenomenon.

Today in EcologyGreen, you'll learn what are the marshes and you will discover great curiosities about these picturesque ecosystems; from its definition to its characteristics, through its fauna and flora.

What are marshes - definition and characteristics

Marshes are those mixed ecosystems with high humidity levels that are inhabited, for the most part, by herbaceous plants that grow on and under the surface of the water. Marshes can be both saltwater and freshwater, so they can be formed by seas or rivers; Hence, most of them have brackish water (that mixed by both) and are generally located near the coast. You can discover more information about What is a mixed ecosystem in this other Green Ecologist article.

The marshes are very important both ecologically (for their rich fauna and flora) and on a human level, since they are used for cultivation. That is why marshes are one of the ecosystems most protected and admired of the world.

Marshes characteristics

  • They are irregular territories where water is deposited from the movement of the sea or the mouth of rivers.
  • They are an area that is located between the mainland and the sea, as is the case with other ecosystems such as estuaries and inlets.
  • Its climate is humid, so it is very conducive to the development of numerous plant and animal species.
  • Marshes are useful places for various types of agricultural and cultivation activities due to their high degree of fertility.
  • They tend to have very little relief. In fact, they rarely exceed 10 meters and are almost always at sea level.
  • Sometimes you can barely see the water, since it is covered by vegetation.
  • One of the functions of marshes is to absorb storm surges to reduce the risk of flooding. In addition, they are also responsible for trapping sediment, so they also function as a natural filter against pollution.

Marsh flora

Due to the particularity of this type of ecosystem, few plant species are really prepared to overcome brackish water conditions. Most of these hardy and typical marsh plants are called halophytic plants. These come to withstand salt concentrations of up to 10%, which prevents the growth of other non-native plants.

However, in general we can highlight four large groups or vegetation formations of the marshes: the seagrass beds, the espartinales, the succulent communities and the shrubby halophilic communities. Among them are well-known plants, such as the black juniper, the mastic, the rockrose or the rosemary. Next, we will see some species more typical of this ecosystem:

  • Althaea officinalis L. o Common marshmallow
  • Apium graveolens L. o Common celery
  • Aster tripolium L. or Tripolio
  • Bolboschoenus maritimus o Marine Cirpus
  • Cochlearia aestuaria o Herb of the spoons
  • Cotula coronopifolia L. o Cat's claw
  • Drimia maritima (L.) Stearn or Squill onion
  • Hydrocotyle vulgaris L. o Water hat
  • Juncus maritimus o Maritime junk
  • Limoniastrum monopetalum or dried purslane

Marsh fauna

Depending on the area where the marshes are, we will see different types of animals, from mammals to amphibians or invertebrates. The animals most present in these ecosystems, however, are birds. Many migratory species use the marshes to nest or regain strength during the trip, so it is common to see different types of birds in these marshy areas. The most common birds of these ecosystems are:

  • Seagulls
  • Common heron
  • Gray heron
  • Storks
  • Harrier
  • Fishing eagle

We can also find different types of invertebrates such as crabs, clams, mussels and snails. On the other hand, the most representative mammals in these areas are mice, rats, rabbits, wild boars, deer, lynx and even raccoons. It is also common to see fish such as salmon, barbel, sole and aligote.

Also, it is not at all strange to find cattle in the marshes; horses, cows, sheep and goats that feed on the plants of these lands. Many ranchers use marshes as a means of raising their livestock naturally, usually in order to obtain better results.

If you want to know more details about the aquatic and terrestrial ecosystem: what it is and differences, do not hesitate to visit this other article.

If you want to read more articles similar to What are marshes, we recommend that you enter our Ecosystems category.

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