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RINHS examines salt ponds, marshes

May 5, 2011

NORTH KINGSTOWN—The most recognizable feature of Rhode Island is Narragansett Bay, deeply channeled and lined with beaches and historic landscapes. Beyond the bay’s shores, however, nestled between tidal plains and inland towns, are numerous salt ponds and marshes. These unique habitats display the wildlife of various fish, birds, insects, and many other species. The Rhode Island Natural History Survey (RINHS) strives to preserve these ecosystems.

RINHS held its 15th annual conference this past Thursday at the Quonset O Club. Speakers from university departments, land trust associations, and other environmental groups presented research which seeks to better define and protect the habitats in salt ponds and marshes.

“To say that salt ponds are a major economic force in our communities is an understatement,” said Charlie Vandemoer of the US Fish and Wildlife Service. “The health and well being of this natural resource is inextricably linked to our actions and how we manage them. [Salt ponds] are crucial to our quality of life.”

Speakers presented research that addresses the myriad concerns over the preservation of the salt marsh ecosystem. Eutrophication, for example, is the process by which chemicals from run-off and sewage pipes are introduced into a water source. These chemicals provide rich nutrients for phytoplankton to feed on and often an algae ‘bloom’ is the result. The phytoplankton subsequently consumes much of the oxygen in salt ponds and marshes, killing of important water species and thus altering entire habitats.

For more information pick up a copy of The Narragansett Times.

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