The arrival of monarchs and fall wildflowers brings a slow-motion firework display of rich reds, oranges, yellows and purples to the Florida Fall scene. The monochrome monoculture of the tidal marsh offers a stunning contrast to the vibrant yellows of swamp sunflowers weaving through the cordgrass.
Apalachicola Riverkeeper’s recent eco-outing took paddlers through the tidal marsh of Cash Creek. Unlike the middle and upper sections of the Apalachicola River, the current of the lower 30 miles is influenced by the tide. High tide and low tide constantly snake their way in and out of the creek to exchange nutrients between the river, bay and marsh.
Even though the marsh may seem somewhat desolate and quiet, it is actually quite busy. The tidal marsh food web is one of the most productive grasslands. These waterborne nutrients sustain a, literally, massive population of microbes. Scientists studying the marshes in Apalachicola Bay found that if all of these microbes were weighed together, they would have the same collective mass of the marsh megafauna -crabs, fish, shrimp, etc. These microbes then feed plankton, which then feeds small invertebrates, shellfish and more! Florida’s shoreline is longer than the rest of the eastern shoreline of U.S. With all those miles of marsh, Florida can produce more seafood than all the other eastern states combined.
Not only do marshes support a healthy recreational and commercial seafood industry, but they also improve our water quality by filtering pollution and prevent shoreline erosion with extensive root systems. To protect the marsh is to protect our land, our water quality and our seafood industry.
Special thanks to Norman, John and Dodie for co-leading this paddle and making sure everything ran smoothly.