Introduction to Saltmarsh Vegetation

Vegetation located in saltmarsh habitat is said to be halophytic which means it is able to tolerate salt. Halophytes found in saltmarsh include succulents, sedges, grasses and algae. Vegetation can provide habitat for other organisms and provide a source of nutrients directly through grazing or indirectly through the saltmarsh food webs. Vegetation structure can provide shade to reduce ambient temperatures in the sediment and with their root systems reduce the impact of erosion and hence lowering the turbidity and sediment loads in adjacent waterways. 

Succulents

Succulents are plants with juicy, thick and fleshy leaves or stems

These plants are adapted to handle high salinity and are capable of storing fresh water in their fleshy leaves which are also designed to reduce evaporation caused by direct exposure to sunlight. There are a number of common species located in saltmarsh habitats in Queensland including:

  • Bead weed (Sarcocornia quinqueflora)
  • Glasswort (Teticornia species)
  • Grey samphire (Tecticornia australasica)
  • Rosy saltbush (Enchylaena tomentose)
  • Seablite (Suaeda arbusculoides and Suaeda Australia)
  • Sea purslane (Sesuvium portulacastrum)  
Grasses and Sedges

A dominant and important species of grass associated with saltmarsh is marine couch or salt couch (Sporobolus virginicus). This plant often forms pastures on the landward side of the saltmarsh and often forms understorey in adjacent casuarina forest.

In some saltmarsh and marine couch areas there are often areas dominated by sedges and rushes. These are found in areas where the salinity is lower due to freshwater incursion. Often there will be melaleuca in this area as they are another species which grow well in water-logged soils.  

Algal Mats
Saltmarsh also has significant patches of clay pans which at first glance can appear devoid of vegetation. However, close inspection of these areas will often reveal the presence of algae which in some cases forms algal mats. This algae can be a significant source of nutrition for invertebrates including gastropods associated with the saltmarsh habitat.