Lincoln, a city in Nebraska is home to a very fragile ecosystem that owes it’s existence to the world-famous salty marshes or saline wetlands. Amidst tall prairies, these saline wetlands in the eastern regions of Nebraska are a wonder. But due to growing urbanization, this fragile ecosystem is getting destroyed. Once, around 20,000 acres of this marshy wetland was present which got dwindled into tiny patches of salty marshes here and there which conservationists are striving to protect. This is the only place in the US with natural saline groundwater.
Importance of these salt flats.
If history is mapped to several million years back, these prairies would be found covered by the sea. With time as the sea retreated it left behind saline rock formations. The northern part of Nebraska has bedrock which is layered with old limestone and shale with deposition of salt over it left from a million years back. This could be a very possible source of salt to the groundwater of Nebraska. This groundwater, in many areas due to pressure, erupts to the surface to form saline wetlands.
Original settlers often covered up these marshy wetlands to do away with the ‘useless’ marshy patches unless the importance of it was eventually realized. These marshes uphold one of the most fragile yet precious ecosystems of the world. Some plants like Saltwort (Salicornia Rubra) and Sea blight (Suaeda depressa) are exotic flora of the salt flats whose tolerance to the salt makes it thrive. Saltwort is a succulent like aloe Vera. Not only flora, but these salt flats are also a habitat to the extremely rare Salt Creek Tiger Beetle (Cicindela Nevadica Lincolnian) whose existence is limited to the marshy land in Nebraska, Lincoln. Their population is around 300 and need these saline wetlands to survive extinction.
How are these saline marshes in danger?
Only a quarter of the total salt marshes are left in Nebraska, most of which are clustered around the town of Lincoln. Due to ignorance as well as urbanization, massive patches of these wonder wetlands have been layered and covered with soil. This has lowered the water table which prevents the groundwater from seeping onto the surface.
If the saline water fails to push it’s way to the surface, the salt flats would not be formed. These salt flats are the habitat for the exotic plants and Salt Creek Tiger Beetles which would eventually die away.
What is being done to prevent the total extinction of the saline soils?
Many organizations of conservationists have partnered to protect these marshes. The Saline Wetlands Conservation Partnership is one of the organizations that is working towards the goal.
Salt Creek and Little Salt Creek are two slime water-laden creeks in Lincoln. The banks of these creeks are being cut out so as to cause flooding of saline water and collect salt on the soil across a larger area.
The surface of soil that has lowered the water table is being scraped off so as to enable the saline groundwater to push to the surface. This partnership has protected and refurbished around 4,500 acres of saline wetlands around the Salt Creek region since 1980.
Nature has already lost a lot to human ignorance and misuse. The efforts of a few to conserve nature are keeping these exotic lands, amongst other wonders of nature from total extinction.