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Building with Nature Guideline > Building Solutions > Ecosystem engineers > Habitat requirements for salt marshes 

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Enhancing salt marsh development: habitat requirements

Salt marsh ecosystems create biodiverse transitional zones between land and water, which serve as natural barriers for coastal defence through increased friction that reduces wave heights. For the establishment, restoration or development of salt marshes it is important that suitable preconditions are present or can be realized. On this webpage, habitat requirements for salt marshes with mineral soils and low organic levels are given. Focus is on necessary preconditions including salinity, inundation time, hydrodynamics, substrate, sedimentation and suspended solids. Through this, planners and designers can estimate if salt marshes are a promising option to incorporate into a design.

Advantages of salt marshes

Blue boxes: benefits of a salt marsh. Green boxes: main necessities for development of a salt marsh.

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How to use


When salt marshes (or comparable ecosystem engineering solutions with for example mangroves or shellfish banks) are 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 this 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 salt marsh are needed to reduce erosion, stabilize sediment or dissipate wave energy?
  • 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?


Here, we focus on the first question, the other questions can be elaborated in subsequent or parallel steps. 

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Determination flowchart for salt marshes

Determination flowchart for salt marshes (for information on thresholds, see text on salt marsh habitat requirements above).

Practical Applications

The following projects are two practical examples:

  • Salt marsh development Marconi Delfzijl;
  • Mud Motor in Port of Harlingen.

Both Delfzijl and Harlingen are harbour cities situated in the north of the Netherlands.

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