Reports of salt marsh dieback in Georgia began in the spring of 2002. These
are areas of marsh with little or no live above-ground vegetation, and there
have been no signs of recovery to-date. Areas with salt marsh dieback have now
been reported in all of the Georgia coastal counties as well as in South Carolina,
and they have caused great concern along the coast. Current estimates exceed
1,000 affected acres, with both Spartina alterniflora (salt marsh cord
grass) and Juncus romerianus (black needlerush) affected. Once the plants
die their roots and rhizomes decompose, and in some areas the marsh is down
to bare mud and beginning to slough into the water.
It is not clear
whether this die-off is the same as the brown marsh phenomenon that has occurred
in the Gulf of Mexico (http://www.brownmarsh.net). Although some aspects of
the situation are similar (both occurred during periods of prolonged drought),
there are also differences between the sites: plants in Louisiana go through
a progressive color change, from green to brown, whereas in Georgia standing
dead plants are not observed; die-off in Louisiana affects Spartina spp.
but not J. romerianus, whereas in Georgia both are affected; dieback
areas in Louisiana are often in the marsh interior, whereas in Georgia both
creekbank and high marsh areas are affected.
of the importance of this problem, the Georgia Coastal Research Council, working
in collaboration with investigators from Louisiana, organized a workshop
as a way for investigators in both areas to exchange technical information and
to address the following questions:
- does marsh
dieback in the South Atlantic Bight have the same causative agent as dieback
in the Gulf of Mexico?
- can we establish standardized protocols for documenting dieback and its
- are there possible avenues for future comparative research?
Link to Workshop Schedule
Link to submitted Research Summaries