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Changing perceptions about Saltmarsh

Changing perceptions about Saltmarsh

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Saltmarsh for Life is about reconnecting the South East Queensland community to the rich and varied life forms found in our beautiful saltmarsh environments. 

Why?

Well if you love seafood, you love saltmarsh. If you love fresh, clean water, you love saltmarsh. If you love birds, you love saltmarsh. So a lot of people already love saltmarsh…… they may just not know it yet!

Saltmarsh ecosystems are so much more varied that they are traditionally given credit for and consequently often mistakenly seen as wastelands and earmarked for development. 

One of the missions of Saltmarsh for Life is to try and start to change these perceptions. 

By bringing different sectors together, such as not-for-profit, universities, Traditional Owners, government and industry, we can start to raise awareness within the community, find out how people use and value these areas, identify where they are and more importantly, what we can do as a community to protect them. 

So what exactly is saltmarsh?

You might recognise saltmarsh as the low wetland areas found near the coast – without getting too technical, saltmarsh includes grasses, herbs, succulents, sedges and bare areas on marine clay plains that experience periodic or occasional tidal flooding. 

While existing in low areas with high salinity content, they can co-exist with mangroves and other salt tolerant trees and shrubs. In South East Queensland saltmarsh is uniquely adapted to our subtropical environment. 

Plants include marine couch, samphire or succulent herbs and other salt tolerant plants and animals that are found mostly along the upper inter-tidal zone of coastal waterways and estuaries.

Why all the fuss?

Well for starters, fish love saltmarsh – they use it as a safe place to breed and feed, as there are much fewer predators here. 

They are very productive ecosystems—meaning that the plants grow a lot each year, and in doing so they support large numbers of snails, worms and other invertebrates and crustaceans that are essential feed for many other animals, including fish and birds. 

So if you like eating or catching fish, then looking after our saltmarsh areas is looking after your fish!

Migratory birds which travel thousands of miles use it as a vital resting and feeding spot, before continuing their journey. Crustaceans like crabs and prawns also use it as a safe place to feed and breed. 

Saltmarsh also cleans water before it makes it way to the ocean, by filtering nutrients and sediment. Clean water means more fish, marine life and healthier coastal areas for you to enjoy with your family. 

Saltmarshes are super carbon stores. Australian saltmarshes, along with mangroves and seagrasses, trap and bury 5 times more carbon in each hectare of their soils than land based forests. This is because saltmarsh is highly productive (the plants grow quickly), and it exists on wet soils (which are starved of oxygen).

A common misconception is that saltmarsh are home to many mosquitos, but in reality a healthy saltmarsh ecosystems generally have fewer mosquitos than saltmarsh areas that have been damaged and degraded.

How can I help?

If you love saltmarsh and would like to help, we are currently collecting information from the community on saltmarsh areas that are important to them. 

All of the information collected will help to build a bigger picture of where saltmarsh areas are found in South East Queensland, what condition they are in, how they are currently used by the community. 

This information will also been used to help prioritise conservation actions, which is another aspect of Saltmarsh for life.

Information could include: 

  • Additional values (culturally significant sites; rare species; social values)
  • Plants and animals using the area,
  • Threats, issues or damage impacting the area
  • Areas that require restoration/conservation action, or
  • Other features of interest.

Bird photo: Bob Crudington

Saltmarsh for Life is an initiative coordinated by SEQ Catchments funded through the National Landcare Programme. 





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