Urban stormwater run-off promotes compression of saltmarshes by freshwater plants and mangrove forests

Ina Geedicke*, Jens Oldeland, Michelle R. Leishman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Subtropical and temperate coastal saltmarsh of Australia is listed as an endangered ecological community under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC Act). Saltmarshes are under threat from sea level rise, landward migration of mangroves, and in urban regions from habitat loss, input of litter, nutrients, and other contaminants. In urbanised catchments, saltmarsh areas receive nutrient-enriched and pollutant-contaminated run-off, such as heavy metals, through the stormwater system. This study aimed to investigate the impact of urban stormwater on saltmarsh and mangrove species composition and distribution. To test the effect of stormwater run-off in urbanised catchments on saltmarsh communities, we analysed the soil for pollutant elements, salinity and nutrient concentration and recorded vegetation composition at eight sites in the Sydney region, Australia. We found that elevated total nitrogen (>0.4 wt%) and reduced salinity of the soil downslope of stormwater outlets facilitates establishment of exotic plants and might promote migration of mangroves into saltmarshes, resulting in a squeezing effect on the distribution of saltmarsh vegetation. Saltmarsh cover was significantly lower below stormwater outlets and exotic plant cover increased significantly with sediment calcium concentrations above 8840 mg/kg, which are associated with stormwater run-off. However, this effect was found to be strongest in highly industrialised areas compared to residential areas. Understanding the impact of pollutants on coastal wetlands will improve management strategies for the conservation of this important endangered ecological community.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)137-144
Number of pages8
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2018


  • exotic plants
  • heavy metals
  • intertidal wetlands
  • mangrove encroachment
  • nutrients
  • pollution


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