The World of the Salt Marsh
The World of the Salt Marsh
Appreciating and Protecting the Tidal Marshes of the Southeastern Atlantic Coast
University of Georgia Press, Hardcover, 9780820327068, 384pp.
Publication Date: May 1, 2012
The World of the Salt Marsh is a wide-ranging exploration of the southeastern coast--its natural history, its people and their way of life, and the historic and ongoing threats to its ecological survival.
Focusing on areas from Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, to Cape Canaveral, Florida, Charles Seabrook examines the ecological importance of the salt marsh, calling it "a biological factory without equal." Twice-daily tides carry in a supply of nutrients that nourish vast meadows of spartina (Spartina alterniflora)--a crucial habitat for creatures ranging from tiny marine invertebrates to wading birds. The meadows provide vital nurseries for 80 percent of the seafood species, including oysters, crabs, shrimp, and a variety of finfish, and they are invaluable for storm protection, erosion prevention, and pollution filtration.
Seabrook is also concerned with the plight of the people who make their living from the coast's bounty and who carry on its unique culture. Among them are Charlie Phillips, a fishmonger whose livelihood is threatened by development in McIntosh County, Georgia, and Vera Manigault of Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, a basket maker of Gullah-Geechee descent, who says that the sweetgrass needed to make her culturally significant wares is becoming scarcer.
For all of the biodiversity and cultural history of the salt marshes, many still view them as vast wastelands to be drained, diked, or "improved" for development into highways and subdivisions. If people can better understand and appreciate these ecosystems, Seabrook contends, they are more likely to join the growing chorus of scientists, conservationists, fishermen, and coastal visitors and residents calling for protection of these truly amazing places.
“The potential impact of The World of the Salt Marsh on society will be similar to the impact Silent Spring and A Sand County Almanac had in their time. Seabrook is a natural storyteller, and the book should be enjoyed by anyone with an interest in life along our coasts.”—Fred Holland, former director of NOAA’s Hollings Marine Laboratory
"Charles Seabrook spent his childhood next to a marsh, and in this marvelous and insightful book he shares his intimate knowledge and his love of these unique green meadows that fill the sounds and bays behind barrier islands. With numerous interviews of scientists and colorful local characters and with Seabrook as our guide, we envision the geologic history of the lower coastal plain of the southeastern U.S., see the sights, observe the plants and animals, hear the sounds, and even smell the smells of the marshes. Irrevocably intertwined with nature here is the fascinating cultural history from Native Americans through the slave culture of the plantations right up to the environmental impact of today’s human rush to the shore. Breathtaking in its scope and highly readable, this book is a must-read for those interested in coasts and concerned for their future."—Orrin H. Pilkey, coauthor of The World's Beaches: A Global Guide to the Science of the Shoreline