Coastal wetlands the ‘link’ between land and sea
Did you know?
- The mangroves and saltmarshes of Australia provide roosting and feeding sites for more than 30 species of shorebirds, many of which fly annually over 10,000 km to Siberia and Alaska along the East Asian Australasian Flyway.
- Mangroves and coastal wetlands annually sequester carbon at a rate two to four times greater than mature tropical forests and store three to five times more carbon per equivalent area than tropical forests. Most coastal carbon is stored in the soil, not in above-ground plant material as is the case with tropical forests.
- At least 2/3 of all the fish consumed worldwide are dependent on coastal wetlands.
- Mangroves and saltmarshes help improve water quality before it enters the ocean, effectively sheltering seagrass meadows and reefs from damaging sedimentation from dirty water. Mangroves in particular also protect the coast from wind damage, salt spray and coastal erosion.
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Mangrove and saltmarsh habitats are commonly known as coastal wetlands and are usually located within the low-lying intertidal zone. They provide productive habitats for a range of species and support commercial and recreational fishing.
In the past, these systems were undervalued and many have been drained, reclaimed or lost because of human activities. Fortunately, the value of these habitats is now recognised and large-scale projects have helped restore some of the systems that have been lost.
One such project is the restoration of the Dry Creek Salt Field which reconnected a degraded intertidal wetland to the life sustaining waters of the sea for the first time in decades.
Restoring the Dry Creek Salt Field in South Australia
Located thirty minutes’ drive from Adelaide, the salt field has produced salt from the evaporation of seawater since the 1930s. Following the salt field’s closure, a small pond was isolated from the rest of the salt field and reconnected to the sea via a tidal creek. The creek now delivers water flows to the degraded site and the process of restoration has begun. So far, rapid restoration of the water and soil quality has been observed and for the first time in decades, vegetation, fish and invertebrates are beginning to reinhabit the pond. Restoring the wetland will also help better protect the coast and even provides a blue carbon opportunity.
Blue carbon is carbon stored in coastal and marine ecosystems, like mangroves, seagrasses and salt marshes. If destroyed, these ecosystems release large amounts of greenhouse gases. If preserved and restored, they offer great opportunities in carbon sequestration and offsetting.
Hear from world-leading blue carbon expert Steve Crooks about how he thinks South Australia can be a blue carbon world leader.