Saltmarsh is an intertidal community of salt tolerant plants such as sedges, rushes, reeds, grasses, low shrubs and succulent herbs. The Subtropical and Temperate Coastal Saltmarsh community is listed as ‘vulnerable’ under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. In Queensland this includes all saltmarsh communities south of Gladstone.
In the Great Sandy Marine Park, saltmarsh is often found in the upper intertidal area between the mangrove fringe and the terrestrial vegetation. Saltmarsh grows in harsh environmental conditions and tolerates daily fluctuations in salinity, water level, temperature, soil aeration, sunlight and moisture. Saltmarsh communities are often only intermittently inundated by medium to high tides and may support dense algal mats such as those in Kauri Creek in the Great Sandy Strait and Theodolite Creek north of Burrum Heads2. The Susan River and its tributaries contain areas of saltmarsh, and in the vicinity of the Mary River, particularly in the tidal areas south of the river including Turkey Island, there are large areas of this important habitat. Saltmarsh distributed throughout Tin Can Inlet is most often adjacent to natural areas where any landward migration of these communities can be accommodated. Saltmarsh habitats do not generally support trees or tall shrubs like those found in mangrove forests, due to the salty environment that they live in.
Saltmarsh acts as a ‘net carbon sink’ - capturing and storing carbon from the atmosphere and ocean, particularly in sediments, at a rate of 30-50 times faster than terrestrial forests (per unit area)1. Human-induced damage or loss of saltmarsh from, for example, the impacts of climate change or coastal development, threatens the capacity of saltmarsh and their associated sediments to store carbon. Any disturbance to saltmarsh results in the release of carbon and other greenhouse gases (including methane), and these emissions contribute to climate change2. Therefore, it is important to preserve areas of saltmarsh to curb greenhouse gas emissions and enable the long-term storage of carbon in the sediments of these coastal ecosystems.
1 Costa, M.D.P.C., Lovelock, C., Waltham, N. and Macreadie, P.I., 2020. Blue Carbon Opportunities in Queensland: how much and where?. A report provided to the Land Restoration Fund, Queensland Government. Deakin University, Melbourne, 34pp.
2Ollivier, Q.R., Maher, D.T., Pitfield, C., and Macreadie, P.I., 2022. Net Drawdown of Greenhouse Gases (CO2, CH4 and N2O) by a Temperate Australian Seagrass Meadow. Estuaries and Coasts, https://doi.org/10.1007/s12237-022-01068-8.
Mackenzie, J. and Duke, N., 2011. State of the Mangroves 2008: Condition assessment of the tidal wetlands of the Burnett Mary Region, School of Biological Sciences, University of Queensland, Brisbane.
Johns, L., 2019. Field guide to common saltmarsh plants of Queensland, Queensland Government.
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