Rachel Carson Reserve is a site in the North Carolina Estuarine Research Reserve System. It is a complex of sand flat wetlands and spoil islands that borders Taylor's Creek next to Beaufort, North Carolina. Rachel Carson contains many grasses and small trees that are tolerant to salt spray. However, storms and hurricanes can often stress plants beyond their tolerance. Despite a lot of human impact and impact from the feral horses which inhabit these sound islands, there is a rich diversity of land and marine life.
Microbial or algal mats are found in the lowest energy tidal sand flats. Rachel Carson is a good place to observe these active biogeochemical systems. When blue-green algae produce the mats, they create their own source of nitrogen through a process of nitrogen fixation. This is unique since nitrogen is a limiting factor in marsh areas.
How can the Spartina plant grow on the algal mats?
Why do some of the shrubs appear to be dead or lack leaves?
How does the horse population on this barrier island obtain its drinking water?
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©1998, Alec M. Bodzin for the Science Junction, NC State University. All rights reserved.
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