Coastal Saltmarsh

Coastal saltmarshes lie at the top of the intertidal zone on fine sediments. The vegetation here is adapted to regular immersion by the tide.

Saltmarsh in Chichester Harbour

Photo: Peter Wakely/Natural England

Why is it important?

  • Saltmarshes are an important resource for breeding and wintering wading birds and wildfowl.
  • They provide sheltered nursery sites for several species of fish.
  • Areas with high structural and plant diversity are particularly important for invertebrates.

Coastal Saltmarsh in Sussex

There are just over 600 hectares of saltmarsh in Sussex, with the majority found in Chichester Harbour, and smaller amounts in Pagham and Rye Harbours. Sussex’s saltmarshes support a number of nationally scarce plants including Sea Barley and Golden Samphire.

What are the threats?

  • “Coastal squeeze” resulting from coastal development, erosion and coastal defences, restricts the ability of saltmarsh habitat to move.
  • Disruption of natural coastal processes as a result of coastal protection work, dredging or coastal defences can affect natural sediment systems.
  • Non-native species such as Cord Grass.

Some associated species

  • Twite Carduelis flavirostris
  • Bass Dicentrarchus labrax
  • Starwort Moth Cucullia asteris
  • Shore Crab Carcinus maenas
  • Common Saltmarsh Grass Pucinella maritima
  • Sea Aster Aster tripolium


Photo: Ian Rose

Advice on coastal saltmarsh


Sussex Targets

Biodiversity Action Reporting System Website

Download the Coastal Saltmarsh Habitat Action Plan