A salt marsh is a coastal wetland rich in marine life, that is covered (at least once a month) by the rising tide. They are sometimes called tidal marshes, because they occur in the zone between low and high tides. Salt marsh plants cannot grow where waves are strong. They also occur in areas called estuaries, where freshwater from the land mixes with sea water. Salt marsh plants have unusual colors in shades of gray, brown, and green. The salt marsh is home to plants and small animals important to the ecosystem, and therefore to us.
In the early days of New Hampshire’s colonization, farmers valued the salt marsh. They often collected the salt marsh grass, as its nutritional value for livestock was excellent. Hampton New Hampshire’s town seal includes a depiction of the local salt marshes.
New Hampshire’s salt marshes were altered by people who felt that they were breeding ground for mosquitoes, or due to development. In 1994 a restoration effort began by the Natural Resource Commission, who found 31 places where the tides were blocked from entering the salt marshes by man-made roads, bridges and culverts. 17 of these 31 restrictions have been removed.
According to the Partners for Fish and Wildlife, “New Hampshire has lost about 10% of its wetlands that were in existence at the time of European settlement. Of the approximately 6,000 acres of coastal saltmarsh remaining, about 1,000 acres are considered degraded by human activity.” Since 1990 the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program has worked successfully with landowners.
New Hampshire’s track record appears to be a little better than the national record. Over half of the original salt marshes in the United States have been destroyed, many of them between the building booms between 1950 and the mid-1970s.