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        Salt Marsh | In the Grass, On the Reef

        Salt marshes are productive estuarine ecosystems that cling to Florida coastlines where temperatures dip below freezing. They filter water, stabilize the coasts, reduce storm surge, and house commercially important species like blue crab and juvenile mullet and shrimp. There is a diversity of different species within a marsh. And while marsh cordgrass seems uniform, Dr. Randall Hughes studies its genetic diversity. She hopes to learn more about how this genetic diversity affects the health of this habitat.

        Learn more about ecology in north Florida visiting the WFSU Ecology blog.

        Salt Marsh Species | In the Grass, On the Reef

        Species typical to a north Florida salt marsh, categorized by trophic level (who eats whom).

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        The True Value of a Salt Marsh | In the Grass, On the Reef

        The salt marshes along Florida’s Gulf Coast provide a variety of ecosystem services and are economically important, but in decline. Dr. Hughes studies these marshes in hopes of finding a way to slow their decline and preserve these services.

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        Biodiversity and Salt Marsh Die-Off | In the Grass, On the Reef

        The coastal salt marsh is a critical intertidal ecosystem. It is also a habitat that we are losing. Dr. Randall Hughes investigates whether biodiversity helps make a marsh stronger and more resistant to change.

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        The Many Personalities of Salt Marsh Cordgrass | In the Grass, On the Reef

        Blue crabs are a tasty treat for humans and sea turtles alike and often rely on coastal salt marshes. Dr. Hughes examines whether a greater diversity of genetically distinct plants makes for a healthier marsh (and by extension, better fishing).

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        Diversity: Getting by With a Little Help From (Salt) Marsh Friends | In the Grass, On the Reef

        Dr. Randall Hughes is interested in what makes a salt marsh less susceptible to disturbances, such as drought. She looks at species diversity to determine what combinations of plants and animals make for a more productive ecosystem.

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        Crown Conchs: Friend or Foe of the Salt Marsh? | In the Grass, On the Reef

        The ecology of fear plays itself out in other intertidal ecosystems. Crown conchs can decimate an oyster reef when left unchecked, but they can keep periwinkle snails in check in the salt marsh. The conch’s fear effects vary in different conditions.

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        Seagrass Wrack in the Salt Marsh: Blessing or Curse? | In the Grass, On the Reef

        In the summer, seagrasses slough off old shoots and grow new ones. The sloughed off grass is pushed into salt marshes. Dr. Randall Hughes and her crew weigh the benefits of seagrass wrack versus its destructive aspect.

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        Mangroves Encroach on Florida Salt Marshes | In the Grass, On the Reef

        After a few relatively mild winters on the northern Gulf coast, cold intolerant black mangroves have started to multiply in salt marshes. Dr. Hughes is conducting an experiment to test whether some mangroves are better adapted to colder climates.

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        Mangroves in the Cold | In the Grass, On the Reef

        Dr. Randall Hughes is conducting an experiment into how well black mangrove propagules from both local and south Florida trees grow in Saint Joseph Bay. Following a harsh winter, she is able to more thoroughly test the survivorship of black mangroves in northern Gulf marshes.

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