Saline wetlands

Vegetation formation map

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Estimated percentage landcover for vegetation formation


An abundance of salt distinguishes saline wetlands from its freshwater equivalent and an ability to deal with varying concentrations (seasonally and diurnally) poses a unique challenge for plants and animals.

Ordinary plants cannot survive soil salt concentrations grater than about 0.1% by weight, however saline wetlands may experience concentrations ranging from 3 to 27%. Plants of saline wetlands exclude, excrete or accumulate salt in order to survive in this environmental stress. Many plants also have a thick waxy coating or cuticle on their leaves and the pores or stomata are often in deep grooves or protected by hairs. These features aid in reducing water loss, which in turn reduces the uptake of saline water via the roots.

Saline wetlands occur in locally restricted habitats such as lake shores and coastal mudflats. They are characterised by low-growing vegetation, with most plants barely emerging above the water line or are knee-high at most. Trees dominate only the Mangrove Swamps. Species diversity is also low; some wetlands comprise of only one species, while others have a few species segregated into distinct zones according to local soil variations.

Saline wetlands are highly productive environments due to an abundance of plant material and nutrients. Invertebrates such as crustaceans, molluscs and insects are abundant, but not diverse, as few species are able to withstand the physiological stresses of the environment. The high productivity of saline wetlands also supports a large quantity of birds and fish, with some waterbirds migrating long distances to their preferred wetland breeding sites.

Some saline wetlands are important nursery areas for many marine fish, mollusc and crustaceans. Eggs, larvae and juveniles develop in the protection of seagrass beds in brackish coastal waters and disperse on outgoing tides once they reach adulthood. Inland species can sometimes spend part of their life-cycle lying dormant as eggs in dry lake beds.

Threatened species in this vegetation formation

See a list of species, populations and ecological communities associated with the Saline wetlands formation.

Find species in a more specific vegetation class

The Saline wetlands formation can be divided into the following classes. Select a vegetation class on the list below to see a list of species associated with it: