#ThreatenedSpecies of the Week: Subtropical and Temperate Coastal Saltmarsh

Subtropical and Temperate Coastal Saltmarsh is a threatened ecological community listed as Vulnerable under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).

The Subtropical and Temperate Coastal Saltmarsh (hereafter Coastal Saltmarsh) ecological community occurs within a relatively narrow margin of the Australian coastline, within the subtropical and temperate climatic zones south of the South East Queensland IBRA bioregion boundary at 23° 37′ latitude along the east coast and south of (and including) Shark Bay at 26° on the west coast.

Map of Subtropical and Temperate Coastal Saltmarsh (Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (DSEWPaC), 2013) [Indicative Map].
The Coastal Saltmarsh ecological community consists mainly of salt-tolerant vegetation (halophytes) including: grasses, herbs, sedges, rushes and shrubs. Succulent herbs, shrubs and grasses generally dominate and vegetation is generally of less than 0.5 m height (with the exception of some reeds and sedges). Many species of non-vascular plants are also found in saltmarsh, including epiphytic algae, diatoms and cyanobacterial mats.

Varieties of Subtropical and Temperate Coastal Saltmarsh

The ecological community is inhabited by a wide range of infaunal and epifaunal invertebrates, and low-tide and high-tide visitors such as prawns, fish and birds. It often constitutes important nursery habitat for fish and prawn species. Insects (terrestrial and aquatic, including nuisance mosquitoes and midges) are abundant and an important food source for other fauna, with some species being important pollinators. It is likely that insects are abundant on saltmarshes due to an abundance of food and shelter despite tidal inundation.

Coastal saltmarshes are recognised nationally and globally as ecosystems of immense ecological value which are increasingly under threat. These threats include clearing and fragmentation; ‘land-claim’ or infilling; altered hydrology/tidal restriction;  invasive species;  climate change; mangrove encroachment; recreation; pollution/litter; eutrophication; acid sulfate soils; grazing; and insect control.

Information Source: Government of Australia, Department of Environment and Energy.

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