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Marsh Dieback Workshop

February 3-4th, 2004
Savannah, Georgia

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.

In recognition 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:

  1. does marsh dieback in the South Atlantic Bight have the same causative agent as dieback in the Gulf of Mexico?
  2. can we establish standardized protocols for documenting dieback and its recovery?
  3. are there possible avenues for future comparative research?

Link to Workshop Schedule

Link to submitted Research Summaries

There were 65 workshop participants, representing academic institutions, and federal, state, and local agencies.  The meeting was organized by the Georgia Coastal Research Council in partnership with Georgia Sea Grant, Louisiana Sea Grant, the Coastal Resources Division of the Department of Natural Resource, and the Coastal Training Program of the Sapelo Island National Estuarine Research Reserve. We extend our thanks to these sponsors.
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This page was updated February 4, 2016