Overview of mangroves and saltmarshes

Project Overview

The aim of this collaborative project is to create species-level content for projects such as the Atlas of Living Australia and for research, education and public information. It builds on existing biodiversity information management activities, resources and expertise around the nation and beyond. Information on the plant and animal species found in Australian mangroves and saltmarshes is being collated, with emphasis on taxonomy, appearance, identification, biology, distribution and ecology. The project is based on active and inclusive partnerships to provide freely available on-line access to information using current biodiversity information management technologies.

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Mangroves and saltmarshes in the media

Recent articles concerning mangroves and saltmarshes from Australia and around the world.

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What are mangroves and saltmarshes?

Mangroves and saltmarshes are found above mean sea level in intertidal areas where deposition of sediment occurs. Mangrove ecosystems are dominated by trees and shrubs > 0.5 m tall, whereas saltmarshes are dominated by shrubs, grass-like plants and herbs < 0.5 m tall. Saltmarsh plants dominate where mangrove plants are excluded by high salinity, low rainfall or cool temperatures. There is evidence that alternate climatic conditions could alter the equilibrium with one plant type replacing the other ([1], [2]).

Saltmarsh species can also occur on the shores of inland water bodies, but these are not considered here.

What are mangroves?

The term "mangrove" can mean the ecosystem of trees or large shrubs and associated organisms occupying environments at the land/sea interface. It is also used to describe those species of shrubs and trees which are specifically adapted to this habitat. Usually there is no contextual confusion, however other terms such as "mangrove plants" and "mangrove ecosystem" are sometimes used. The terms "mangal", "tidal forest" and "mangrove forest" have also been used to refer to mangrove ecosystems.

This project deals with ALL plants, animals and other life forms that occur within mangrove ecosystems including, but not limited to, plants which fall under the various definitions of mangrove plants.

Mangrove as a habitat:

"A mangrove is the tidal habitat comprising [the]... trees and shrubs ... that normally grow above mean sea level in the intertidal zone of marine coastal environments and estuarine margins." [2]

"a community of trees and shrubs which grow in the sea" [3]

Mangrove as a plant:

Most definitions of mangrove plant species are restricted to arborescent trees and shrubs, however some researchers take a broader view, including all plants that are obligately associated with mangrove ecosystems (e.g. [4]).

"A mangrove is a tree, shrub, palm or ground fern, generally exceeding one half metre in height, that normally grows above mean sea level in the intertidal zone of marine coastal environments and estuarine margins." [2]

"any vascular plant that regularly occurs in areas subject to tidal inundation" [4]

"any one of the individual species which constitute [the community of trees and shrubs which grow in the sea]" [3]

What are saltmarshes?

Saltmarsh, or salt marsh, ecosystems are dominated by shrubs, grass-like plants and herbs < 0.5 m tall, that grow above mean sea level in the intertidal zone.

"Small shrubs or herbaceous plants, generally less than 0.5 m in height, that normally grow above mean sea level in the intertidal zone of marine coastal environments and estuarine margins" [5].

"Saltmarshes are important inter-tidal wetland plant communities made up of a mosaic of succulents, grasses, low shrubs and saltpans. They commonly occur in upper inter-tidal zones between the mangrove fringe and more terrestrial vegetation" [6].

References

  1. Love, L.D. (1981). Mangroves swamps and salt marshes. pp. 319-334 In Groves, R.H. (ed.), Australian Vegetation, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. (more)
  2. Duke, N.C. (2006). Australia's Mangroves. The authoritative guide to Australia's mangrove plants. University of Queensland, Brisbane. (more)
  3. Macnae, W. (1968). A general account of the fauna and flora of the mangrove swamps and forests in the Indo-West-Pacific Region. Adv. Mar. Biol. 6: 73-270. (more)
  4. Wightman, G. (2006). Mangroves of the Northern Territory, Australia: identification and traditional use. Northern Territory. Dept. of Natural Resources, Environment and the Arts, Palmerston. (more)
  5. Duke, N. C. (2011). Mangroves. Encyclopedia of Modern Coral Reefs. Structure, Form and Process. D. Hopley. Dordrecht, The Netherlands, Springer: 655-663. (more)
  6. Johns, L. (2006). Field Guide to Common Saltmarsh Plants of Queensland. Dept Primary Industries and Fisheries, Qld. Most content available online: (more)