THE WORLD OF THE SALT MARSH. By Charles Seabrook. University of Georgia Press. 367 pages. $28.95.
Growing up on a Johns Island tidal creek did not seem special at the time to a young boy until he moved away and saw the rest of the world.
After leaving his home on Johns Island, author Charles Seabrook reflected back on his memories and began to cherish his time spent swimming in the creek at high tide, sitting on the dock and listening to snapping shrimp, catching a spotted seatrout for breakfast or watching a snowy egret walking the creek bank as the sun rose.
Seabrook settled in Atlanta, where he has been a columnist and outdoor writer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for many years. His fascination and love of the salt marsh and Sea Island culture is clear as he takes the reader up and down the coast from North Carolina to central Florida.
Salt marshes were once thought of as wastelands that should be filled to build towns and roads. Indeed, much of the Charleston area is built on salt marshes, as evidenced by the steady subsidence and routine flooding of many of these areas.
But years of research have refuted this way of thinking.
Seabrook provides accurate technical details of the biology of many animals in the salt marsh and their ecological inter-relationships.
He also paints a picture of respect and dependency of those who make their living on the products of the salt marsh, such as commercial shrimpers and shellfish harvesters, as well as the Gullah/Geechee folk who have lived in close association with the salt marsh for many generations.
A central theme of the book is that the salt marsh, hammocks and coastal culture are at risk to development. Coastal development has resulted in increases of impervious surfaces that result in rapid runoff of pollutant- and nutrient-laden rainwater. Research has shown that an increase above 20 percent to 30 percent of impervious surface cover in a watershed results in impaired water quality, excessive amounts of harmful chemicals in creek sediments, and increases in pathogens in water and shellfish.
In the epilogue, Seabrook provides recommendations to “ward off environmental degradation along the seashore.” There is also a very good list of references for the reader who wishes to explore more on this topic. This book is highly recommended to anyone who shares our respect of the salt marsh and would like to learn about its biology and culture.
Reviewers David Whitaker, assistant deputy director of the Marine Resources Division, and Billy McCord, DNR, retired Department of Natural Resources biologist