Australia's saltmarshes: a synopsis to underpin the repair and conservation of Australia's environmentally, socially and economically important bays and estuaries

Saltmarshes in this report refers to the mosaic of coastal wetland ecosystems that occupy areas of
low energy, intermittent tidal inundation, typically in bays, inlets and estuaries, on sheltered soft
substrate foreshores, often at the foreshore in southern Australia and occurring behind mangroves
in tropical Australia.

Functional role of saltmarshes
Saltmarshes serve multiple functions including sediment trapping, nutrient cycling, dissipation of
wave energy, fish and prawn nursery, net primary production, carbon sequestration and resting and
feeding areas for birds. Saltmarshes are a key component of our estuaries and coastal landscapes
and provide connectivity between freshwater to brackish to tidal and sub-tidal ecosystems.

This synopsis
This report summarises key attributes about our saltmarshes for Queensland (Qld), New South
Wales (NSW), Victoria (Vic), Tasmania (Tas) and South Australia (SA) including:

  • Current extent;
  • Losses and changes to the saltmarsh landscapes;
  • Vegetation types and nature of this mosaic landscape;
  • Role in net primary productivity and in Australia’s seascapes;
  • Legislation, regulations and protection mechanisms in each state;
  • Simple indices to represent their benefits and as a basis for developing return on
  • Investment analysis; and
  • Priorities for repair.

Resources for preparation of this report were limited. Thus, the study focus could not extend to
include temperate saltmarshes in Western Australia and tropical saltmarshes in Western Australia
and the Northern Territory.

Key findings
This report has found that the challenges Australia faces to repair saltmarshes for the benefit of
Australian coastal communities are substantial. Key aspects include:

  • Different saltmarsh community types with accompanying different roles and functions occur within and across different states;
  • Knowledge (i.e. extent, mapping and definition) and protection (i.e. legislation, planning and regulations) of saltmarsh community types also vary amongst states, so that a “one size fits all” approach to conservation and to restoration is not appropriate;
  • Community knowledge and appreciation of the value of saltmarshes is low, inhibiting protection, conservation and restoration; and
  • Australia does have some good examples and demonstrations of successful saltmarsh restoration that can serve to underpin the scale-up of restoration activities.

Related information

Caption - The sun sets over saltpan habitat in north Queensland

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