Introduction

Salt has played an important role in human history, serving as a currency, figuring prominently in fables and expressions, and being an important nutritional and culinary element. Salt also plays a crucial role in the structuring of organismal assemblages and ecosystems. Salt is an essential element for all living organisms, and is critical to many metabolic functions, including nerve and muscle action, blood pH and electrolyte balance, and cell regulation. Salt is, however, only salubrious within a certain range, with too little or too much leading to metabolic failure. Because of this, salt is a common and often dominant abiotic factor structuring ecological communities. For example, transitions from fields of grasses, herbs, and succulents to tall stands of reeds and cattails as one heads upstream from an ocean is in large part due to the effects of decreasing salinity.

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