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Salt Marshes Teeming with Life

Kayaking through the salt marshes of Cape Cod
Kayaking through the salt marshes of Cape Cod

The next time you stay on the Cape or Islands at one of our Cape Cod rentals, don't pass up the opportunity to explore the exotic inhabitants of the nearby saltwater marshes.

Although saltwater marshes are certainly not unique to the Cape and Islands, they greatly contribute to what makes the scenery and wildlife here so beautiful and special. The deep and varied hues of green, often complemented by the blues of sky and water, are changeable and alluring. The growing popularity of kayaking has increased our exposure to the marshes, providing us with a most relaxing, affordable and fascinating activity, and further promoting our appreciation for this unique setting.

The ecosystem of the salt marshes provides a critical habitat to countless species of the wildlife. But the bogs and marshes are inherently fragile, easily affected by the vicissitudes of both man and weather.

In addition to providing a critical feeding, breeding and nesting habitat to a plethora of wildlife including rare, endangered species, the marshes of the coastal wetlands supply nurseries with fish and shellfish, store floodwaters, and protect our shores during storms. We also benefit from the natural purification system they provide by filtering pollutants and sediments that would otherwise run into the surrounding seas and drinking water supplies.

Along the Herring River, Harwich, Cape Cod
Along the Herring River, Harwich

Since 2003, the Association to Preserve Cape Cod (the APCC) has used its salt marsh monitoring program to learn more about this precious resource and what we can do to protect it. According to the APCC, 38% of our historical salt marshes on the Cape have either been lost or severely harmed since colonial times. The worst culprits are agriculture, mosquito treatment, channeling and housing development. Critical to the survival of the marshes are the salinity levels, which rise and fall naturally with the tides. The increase of nitrogen from onsite septic systems and lawn fertilizing promotes the rapid growth of algae and phytoplankton, which in turn threatens the indigenous eel grass. And invasive bridges and railroads restrict the natural flow of the nutrients to the marshes. This then results in the replacement of native salt marsh vegetation by the colonization of dense stands of common reed.

Learn more about this valuable and threatened resource at APCC Salt Marsh Program.

About Joan Talmadge

About Joan Talmadge: My husband Jeff and I created WeNeedaVacation.com in 1997, shortly after buying our home in Orleans. I manage the Homeowner Support Team, assisting our homeowners with marketing and management advice. I also edit most of the content about the Cape & Islands on our website as well as for our Homeowner Blog and monthly newsletters. And as co-owner, I manage our devoted staff and much of the day-to-day business. I get great joy from helping fellow homeowners successfully rent their homes. Jeff and I are proud to have two of our three grown children working for WeNeedaVacation.com, truly a family-run business. For me, the Cape and Islands are magical all times of the year -- whether it's walking on Nauset Beach, playing golf, or enjoying family and friends here.