A salt marsh is a shallow wetland covered with vegetation and protected from the sea’s waves but exposed to tides. The plants that grow there are adapted to wide variations in salinity and temperature. The vegetation provides essential habitat for all sorts of animals—everything from organisms buried in the mud and crustaceans hidden in the leaves to spawning fish and birds and mammals come to feed.
The salt marsh is a highly productive environment. Its brackish mix of fresh and salt water is rich in mineral nutrients and plant and animal organic matter. In addition to feeding marsh inhabitants, some of this “nutrient soup” escapes to nourish plants and animals in the Bay of Gaspé. Due to the major ecological importance of the salt marsh, researchers conduct scientific studies to update our knowledge and ensure the survival of this crucial ecosystem.
© D. Daniels
In the spring and fall, many species of migrating birds seek out the salt marshes to rest and feed before continuing their long voyage. This makes the marshes a great place to bird watch! There are also numerous species that come to feed and even nest there throughout the summer.
Certain animal species are completely dependent on the salt marsh for their survival. One example is the maritime ringlet, a small butterfly whose life cycle is closely tied to a salt marsh plant called salt-meadow grass. The grass is the butterfly’s sole source of food and lodging during its first four growth stages. The adult butterfly feeds mainly on the nectar of Carolina sea-lavender, another salt marsh plant.
Science Report - Benthic Fauna of a Salt Marsh - Penouille - 49p. (PDF, 1.12 MB) (in French)
Sommary (PDF, 232 KB) (in English)