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Habitat requirements for salt marshes


Salt marshes are found in the upper-tidal coastal zone between land and salt or brackish water in areas where strong wave action is absent and sediments are able to build up. The salt marshes are part of the environment silty shores. It’s important for the realisation of salt marshes that the right pre-conditions are present or can be realized. This Building Solution gives habitat requirements for salt marshes with mineral soils and low organic levels. It focuses on the necessary preconditions as salinity, inundation time, hydrodynamics, substrate, sedimentation and suspended solids. 

In the figure below the light blue boxes show the advantages of using a salt marsh. In the black boxes some of the main necessities for creating a salt marsh are depicted.

Advantages of salt marshes

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How to use


If an ecosystem engineer is considered to be included in a design for coastal protection or coastal rehabilitation, several questions need answering:

  • Is it possible to create a suitable habitat for a specific ecosystem in the project area?
  • What would be the envisaged services provided by this ecosystem?
  • To what extent can the ecosystem contribute to the primary function of the design and how does this affect the design itself? For example, what dimensions of a shellfish reef are needed to reduce erosion or stabilize sediment? And what dimensions to act as an efficient wave reflector?
  • What effects do the ecosystem engineers in this ecosystem have on the existing physical, ecological and socio-economical system?
  • What are the costs, uncertainties and risks ensuing from including these ecosystem engineers in the design?


In this Building Solution, the focus lies on the habitat requirements for shellfish. The determination flowchart gives a first answer to the suitability of the project area as a habitat for shellfish. Other questions can be elaborated in subsequent or parallel steps.

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Determination flowchart for salt marshes

Determination flowchart for salt marshes

Practical Applications

Two practical examples are presented, Mud Motor Wadden Sea Harlingen, and Salt Marsh development, Marconi, Delfzijl. Both Delfzijl and Harlingen are harbour cities situated in the north of the Netherlands.

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