(November 09, 2020) --

Dauphin Island Salt Marsh

Tidal marshes play a significant role in coastal ecosystems. They are a nursery ground for juvenile fishes and a line of defense in coastal erosion. However, there is still a great deal not known about tidal marshes. In November 2019, 65 scientists, managers, and restoration practitioners converged at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab to see where tidal marsh research has been and where it needs to go. 

Dr. Ronald Baker, DISL Marine Scientist and University of South Alabama Department of Marine Sciences Assistant Professor, led the meeting as part of the Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation Conference Workshop program. Participants spanned from undergraduate students to recently retired leaders of the field. The workshop drew its name from Weinstein & Kreeger’s 2000 book, Concepts and Controversies in Tidal Marsh Ecology. 

Weinstein, Ken Able, a leader on fish ecology, and a series of presentations opened the meeting to outline key issues confronting tidal marshes and their ongoing role in providing benefits to humans and animals. The presentations were followed by a panel discussion, and then breakout sessions. 

The highlights of the discussion over two days are now outlined in a Letter to Science, Fisheries rely on threatened salt marshes, published in the November 6, 2020 issue. The authors include participants from that meeting who are leaders in the field and graduate students from DISL/USA. 

Attendees to the CERF Tidal Marsh Workshop 
DISL November 2019

A few key takeaways presented in the Letter to Science include increasing public awareness to prevent loss and increase conservation and restoration efforts, continue to explore the fundamental links between salt marshes and fisheries, and understanding sea-level rise impacts salt marsh habitats.

“The 2000 book is about 1,000 pages covering a wide range of topics, so it is difficult to distill out the key messages,” Baker explained. “Rather you might say our special issue builds on the foundation of the 2000 book to look ahead to the coming decades and the key issues confronting the ongoing role of salt marshes in supporting fisheries and other ecosystem services.”

The special issue of the Estuaries and Coasts journal which is in press will include a number of Perspective papers and a series of relevant research papers on the topic of tidal marshes.