Introduction to Salt Marshes   5 comments

New Addition to Salt Marsh Pannes and Pools: Common Ciliated , Flagellated and Amoeboid Protozoans found in a mid-coast Maine Salt Marsh Tidal Pool from April through November 2015 including photographs and videos of most genera.


Field Trip To A New England Salt Marsh

Robert Zottoli

Professor Emeritus

Fitchburg University


In September, the marsh disappears. Above-ground parts of marsh plants die back and are partially digested by fungi and bacteria, reducing them to small pieces (detritus) that can be trapped on the mud surface or flushed out to sea providing food to organisms on the sea floor. In  late fall all that remains are plant stems protruding just above the sediment surface. Toward the end of April and the first part of May, coastal marshes undergo an amazing transformation. Varieties of plants emerge from the seemingly lifeless mud surface and form extensive marshes.

This web program was created to provide a field experience for those unable to reach salt marshes or those who would like to review the features of common species before visiting a salt marsh. In many instances, prominent anatomical features in the photographs of both animals and plants are labeled. I have included videos of microscopic organisms belonging to most of the major animal and plant groups in the marsh pools section.

Photographs of marsh zonation and individual species as well as descriptions of marsh zonation were compiled from several salt marshes in southern and mid coastal Maine. Zonation patterns and general distribution of species in some salt water marshes are not as clear cut as described here, however this should serve as a general guide. For descriptive purposes I have divided the marsh into 6 zones based on the substratum (Mud Flats) , on dominant organisms (Spartina alterniflora, Spartina patens, Juncus geradii ), or location [Upper Marsh and Marsh Border (above the marsh proper)].

Digital photographs accompany brief written descriptions of selected plants as well as a few of their culinary and medicinal uses. Finally, some of the adaptive features that help a select few of the species to survive or thrive in the marsh are briefly mentioned.

Digital images were taken at different times throughout the seasons by  Robert Zottoli. Most of the photographs were snapped with Nikon digital cameras (D800 and D300), equipped with a 60 mm AF Micro Nikkor 1:2.8 D lens. The majority of images were moderately enhanced and reduced in size within Adobe Photoshop( CS4 ,CS5 or CS6). The web site was first constructed using Adobe CS5 Dreamweaver and then transfered to WordPress (  T

Videos (1790×1327) were filmed through a trinocular compound (Nikon Eclipse E200 ) microscope with a C-Mount Digital ToupTek Camera (USB3 CMOS 10000K PA) equipped with a 10 Mega pixel chip at about 24 frames per second. The videos were posted on VIMEO and their codes embedded in the manuscript so that they can be accessed directly from the Vimeo web site. Still photographs (3584×2746) were taken using the same setup described above. Some of the still photographs were taken from  movie files (my own) using Photoshop CS6.

Material may be reproduced for non-commercial, personal, educational or scientific purposes only. Copying or redistribution in any way for personal or corporate gain is not allowed without written permission from Robert Zottoli (

 Use the following format to name pictures and give credit to photographer Robert Zottoli: rzottoli, Salt Marshes in Mid-Coast Maine, at

Plant species were identified using keys provided in :

Hinds, Harold R. 2000. Flora of New Brunswick. 2nd. Ed. Biology Department, University of New Brunswick. ISBN1-55131-015-5. 699 pp.

Magee, D.W. and H.E. Ahles, 2007. Flora of the Northeast. A manual of the vascular flora of New England and adjacent New York. 2nd Ed., University of Massachusetts Press, Amherst. 1214 pp. ISBN 13: 978-1-55849-577-7.

Animal species were identified using a number of invertebrate keys.

Connections to selected websites are listed beneath the scientific name of each species. Wikipedia ( , a free encyclopedia, generally provides more specific information about the species in question. Keep in mind that anyone can edit information on this site. The Plants Database published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture ( makes available a wealth of information on most plant species as well as “related websites” and additional “species accounts and images” in the “more accounts and images” section at the bottom of the page.

Please let me know if the program meets your needs. It would also be helpful if you could make suggestions on how to improve the web site. Send comments to me at:

Posted January 11, 2011 by zottoli

5 responses to “Introduction to Salt Marshes

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  1. This is so helpful! What an easy, effective way to expand my own knowledge and increase the value of my programs and walks on edible and medicinal plants and fungiI

  2. This is an amazing resource! Really fantastic. Thank you for your efforts.

    Wally Fulweiler
  3. Your photographs are clear and beautiful, and your video clips show details. I will be using this site with my 5th and 6th grade science classes, as we prepare for field trips to land trusts in the Boothbay region. Even though the text is advanced for my students, I can paraphrase. The photographs tell the story of the complexity and importance of salt marshes! Thank you.

    Michelle Miclette
  4. Wow! So thorough and easy to follow. Thank you for taking the time to create this and for sharing it as well.

  5. Thank you! Student at Salem State, taking a Biology class, very impressed with your knowledge.

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