Moultrie Students try replanting to stop Marsh die-off

By Ava

Charleston, S.C. (WCIV) Wading through her backyard marsh has become a hobby of sorts for Dale Aren of Charleston. Aren said she's always lived the salt life, but one day she realized that way of living was being threatened.

"We noticed about two years ago that the salt marsh seemed to be retreating and it seemed to be dying off in this area closer to the house and being more healthy towards the creek," said Aren.

She began researching the dying marsh starting with calls to the Department of Natural Resources.

"Many times the observation of die off comes well after the marsh has died," said David Whitaker, DNR's Marine Division Assistant Director.

He said they've seen the die off periodically through the past 20 years, but it's not getting better.

"We believe that die off is largely related to stress from climate such as droughts in particular and very hot summers. We don't know what the mechanism is," said Whitaker.{}

He said there could be different variables that add to the marsh die-off like snails, but whatever is causing it is a serious problem.

"Salt marsh is our bread and butter in terms of primary production in producing food for all the animals out there," said Whitaker. {}

As Aren got further into her research she came across a study at the University of Florida which involving the replanting of Spartina grass from healthy parts of the same marsh.

"We're thrilled this spring to see that we have one foot to two feet expansion back into the part that had died off," said Aren.

What's working for one West Ashley marsh could be good for a Marsh in Mt. Pleasant. That's part of the hypothesis of a group of scientist from Moultrie Middle school.

{}"If you are to bring transplants that are healthy from the high marsh and bring them down to the low marsh and plant them like a foot apart that they will have room to grow,"said student Kyle Hunter.

Like the researchers at the University of Florida, teacher Deborah Belflower and Moultrie Middle school students are replanting Spartina grass at Alhambra Hall.

{}"Kinda do trial an error because this is I think our first time like really getting out there and doing this so we are trying to experiment as we go a long," said Briana Fabian.

Their goal is to keep the replanted Spartina growing despite the heavy pluff mud.

{}"We all fall we all get muddy but it's the fun of it and the results make it worth it," said Maya Andrade.

Their results are coming in slowly.

"They are very important in the eco system, their storm barriers the filter all the water out and just create a great habitat," said Huw Meredith.