Life Cycle - Natural Environment (4B)
Pre Lab 

   
OBJECTIVES:
  • Exploring the plant life of a salt marsh.
  • Identifying plants in a saline environment.
VOCABULARY:
  • cordgrass
  • pickleweed
  • saltgrass
MATERIALS:
  • pictures or samples of cordgrass, pickleweed, and saltgrass (can collect in salt  marsh)
  • Internet

Students learn about saline environments. 

BACKGROUND:

Salt marshes are an important, but highly disregarded resource, vital to both the environment and wildlife.  They are usually located between bays, sloughs, and dry land and are subject to periodic flooding.  The water and soil of a salt marsh are highly saline, consequently, the plants and animals have adjusted to these conditions.  The majority of plants could not survive in such an environment because the salt would clog their pores and cause the plants to die.  Certain plants, however, called halophytes have adjusted to saline environments and have developed certain ways to get rid of excess salt.  Plants such as cordgrass, pickleweed, and saltgrass can be found within the boundaries of a salt marsh.  If you have samples of these plants, you can show the students.  Their survival modifications are especially noticeable under a magnifying glass on the underside of the leaf.

One of the most abundant plants found in a salt marsh is cordgrass which is  found closest to the bay in the wetter parts of the marsh.  When cordgrass decomposes it breaks apart and releases small particles, that microscopic organisms use as food.  These microscopic organisms are in turn eaten by larger sealife such as shrimp.  The most important function of cordgrass is not the production of food, but the production of one of our most valuable resources, oxygen.  Cordgrass cleans the air and makes oxygen.  In fact, cordgrass takes in more carbon dioxide than any other plant and produces 5-10 times more oxygen per square acre than wheat.

Salt marshes are important habitats for many different wildlife and sealife species.  The ponds serve as resting areas for migrating birds and also as food sources for the local waterfowl. They are nurseries to many fish species. 

The plants of the salt marsh provide an environment where other organisms can live.  

PROCEDURE:
  1. Students should try and get more information on plants that live in a salt marsh.  Instruct students to do a search on: salt marsh, pickleweed, cordgrass, and saltgrass.  Record any more information that they may find.
      
    Below is an example of a east coast marsh area.
      
    http://www.baylink.org/lessons/marsh.html
    Virginia Beach, Virginia salt marsh 
      
  2. You may want the students to try and draw the relationship of pickleweed, cordgrass, and saltgrass. Use the pictures below to help you draw the plants.


cordgrass


saltgrass


pickleweed

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