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The marsh mesocosm is comprised of two major wetland types: 1) a small area of marshes dominated by grass species and 2) forested swamps dominated by mangrove trees, covering 80% of the mesocosm. 542 mangroves and 15 freshwater trees were originally present in the mesocosm’s 441 m2 area. This estuarine model is composed of six adjacent sections. Walls between each section are reinforced with steel rebar and have 0.6 m-wide notches, which permit movement of animals and water between sections. To maximize species diversity, different community types were constructed in each of the six sections.
The upland end of the model is a wetland-ringed freshwater pond (59 m2). Taxodium distichum, Annona glabra, Salix caroliniana, and Myrica cerifera are the dominant trees. The Oligohaline marsh (32 m2) is the transitional zone between the freshwater and mangrove sections. Acrostichum danaeifolium, Spartina spartinae, Myrica cerifera, and Laguncularia racemosa are the dominant plants. The salt marsh/white mangrove section (52 m2) signifies the start of the truly marine area. This section is dominated by Rhizophora mangle and Laguncularia racemosa. The Black Mangrove section (72m2) is dominated by Avicennia germinans. The northern two sections, Oyster Bay (91m2) and Fringing Red Mangrove (129m2), are dominated by Rhizophora mangle trees (Finn, 1996).
The marsh system was colonized crawfish, snails, mosquito fish, sailfin mollies, mudcrabs, fairy shrimp, mangrove crabs, killifish, amphipods, sponges, anemones, and snapping shrimps. There has been a decline in faunal diversity, perhaps caused by biotic closure effects and the absence of tides.