Letters to the Editor

Environment: Spartina war must be fought

It is amazing to me that some people would pontificate about the environment, specifically spartina, without having any knowledge of the subject. (“Spartina wars a likely loser,” Whidbey News-Times, Aug. 14).

Spartina alterniflora (smooth cordgrass, saltwater cordgrass or oyster grass) is a perennial grass that dominates the salt marsh community of tidal wetlands on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of North America. It spreads by rhizomes and forms a dense canopy that provides a significant buffer against wave energy, controls erosion, accretes suspended sediments and produces significant amounts of organic matter, thus providing food and protective habitat for numerous estuarine organisms on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. However, Spartina is but one example of the kind of nonnative plants and animals spreading faster than ever across a shrinking globe. Experts say the first introductions of spartina on the Pacific coast occurred in the 1800s. This introduction was a result of using the grass for packing material for the shipment of East Coast oysters.

The vast beds of eel grass and shellfish that thrive in the nutrient-rich environment of naturally functioning mud flats, which rise and fall with the wind and incoming tides in the Pacific Northwest, are being destroyed. One of the many ways spartina is affecting our mud flats is by slowing the current of water within the flats. This allows the deposition of excessive sediments to occur. Over time our mud flats will be above the high tide mark. If we lose our mud flats we lose the basis of our marine ecosystem. Imagine the consequences. This is a war worth fighting.

John Barone

Environmental Scientist

Oak Harbor

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