Coastal Marsh Plants, Adapting To Road Salt, Increasingly Common Along Midwest Highways

salt marsh habitat photo

Characteristic salt marsh habitat. Image credit:Wikipedia

Blasting along the Ohio Turnpike, few will notice the coastal salt marsh plants growing along the shoulder. Such plants are now common at the mid-western roadside, having adapted to a half century of road salt application. Whether the seeds were originally brought by bird droppings or vehicles, no one is certain. Un-natural selection.
Michael Scott, writing for The Plain Dealer blog, has the story.

...not only are native plants dying off from a gradual buildup of salt and salt water, but...plants now thriving are species arriving from ocean estuaries or coastal salt marshes.

In fact, the harsh roadside environment has probably been gradually changing for as long as snow plow crews have been salting roads in winter -- and accelerating over the last four decades or so.

And the tide is turning -- in favor of species collectively known as halophytes, or plants that tolerate or demand salinity.

Essentially, liberal coastal state plants have taken over highway margins of the conservative heartland. Oh dear...whatever can we do?

Linear ecosystems.
It's not just salt tolerant plants which have adapted to the modern highway system. Driving across Pennsylvania on Interstate 76 recently, while passing to the South of the famed Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, the roadside was lined with raptors perched on wires and trees lining the corridor, awaiting road kill - or possibly waiting for rabbits to be flushed from the fields by farmers.

As for the hominid component of this ecosystem, land developers, ad agencies, retail outlets, and political interest groups have had intelligent designs on passers-by for years. Intra-species predation.


Image credit:FFR Foundation

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