Coastal Saltmarshes

Left: Saltmarsh behind mangroves Tooradin Photo: T. Ealey, WPSP.
Right: Saltmarsh establishing behind maturing mangroves. Photo: T. Ealey, WPSP.

Saltmarshes are comprised of plant species adapted to coastal wetlands that undergo regular or periodic saltwater inundation or sea spray. Saltmarshes are found in the sheltered intertidal or estuarine zones, especially between mangroves (seaward side) and Melaleuca scrub (landward side). They require protection from strong currents, wave action, significant freshwater inputs and human and stock disturbance. Saltmarsh range is either extended or diminished according to whether mangroves are colonizing new shoreline or in retreat due to coastal erosion.

Left: Mangrove stumps mark the original coast line and show the extensive coastal erosion and loss of saltmarsh that followed. Photo: T. Ealey ,WPSP.
Right: Seawalls collapsing – coastal destabilization due to mangrove removal and consequent loss of saltmarshes. Photo: T. Ealey, WPSP.

Where mangroves have been removed, saltmarshes will be eroded away quickly, followed by aggressive coastal erosion. Saltmarshes behind retreating mangroves or where mangroves have been removed can face obliteration if landward movement is blocked by man made coastal barriers. Salmarshes are also important sheltering and feeding areas for birds, especially migratory waders covered by the Ramsar convention.

Saltmarsh species include low succulents, herbs, shrubs, rushes and sedges, with each species having a different salt tolerance.