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Salt Marsh Ecosystem

What is salt marsh?

A salt marsh ecosystem is wildlife-rich, grassland regularly flooded by the sea.  We are lucky enough to have two salt marshes in Portishead, one at Battery Point and the other at Portbury Wharf.

Our salt marsh ecosystems

The sea floods the salt marshes twice a day.  So the plants here have to be salt tolerant especially those nearest the sea.  Plants further up the marsh may only be flooded occasionally.

Many of these plants are very nutritious so provide food as well as shelter for wildlife.  Though it is not just the plants that attract wildlife here.  The mud is the other star of the salt marsh as it is host to masses of small marine creatures loved by wading and shoreline birds. So it is not surprising that both the marsh and mudflats are a haven for wildlife.  See our mud beasties page to find out about the creatures in the mud.

Around the globe, salt marshes sustain many wildfowl which are in decline.

A Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)

Though quite different in size and wildlife, both Portbury Wharf and Battery Point salt marshes are Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). So scientifically they are more significant than the nature reserve which has no such designation.  Wildlife frequently moves between the nature reserve and salt marsh.

In fact the entire coastline between Portbury Wharf Salt Marsh and Black Nore is SSSI. The Severn Estuary itself is also internationally important, click here to read more about the Severn.

Why the Salt Marsh Ecosystem is so Important?

  • They are unique habitats for rare and unusual species of plants and animals
  • Salt marshes buffer the erosion effects of waves and protect the land behind from flooding
  • They capture and store carbon. So play a significant role in regulating local and global climate

Salt marshes are so significant for us and wildlife that a man-made salt marsh has been created in the Bristol Channel at Steart.  You can read more about it at:


Go to our salt marsh index for links to some fascinating information