California coastal salt marsh

California's coastal salt marsh is a wetland plant community that occurs sporadically along the Pacific coast from Humboldt Bay to San Diego. This salt marsh type is found in bays, harbors, inlets and other protected areas subject to tidal flooding.

Plant species in this community are halophytes adapted to the saline conditions and low oxygen content typically found in the water-saturated soils. As a result of the demanding conditions, species diversity is relatively low.

Typical plant species in this community include (Ornduff 2003):

Plants occur in bands that are determined by the amount of submergence a species can tolerate. Most tolerant of submergence is cordgrass which has a hollow stem that allows oxygen to reach its roots . Further inland pickleweeds and glassworts are predominant where their roots are flooded only during the highest tides. The Salt-marsh Bird’s-beak (Cordylanthus maritimus) is an endangered plant species that occurs in this habitat.

Few terrestrial animals inhabit the coastal salt marsh. One endangered mammal is the Salt Marsh Harvest Mouse (Reithrodontomys raviventris) which occurs in the San Francisco Bay region. Likewise, only five species of birds are resident in this habitat and four are considered rare or endangered.


  • Ornduff, Robert. (2003) Introduction to California Plant Life. Revised by Phyllis M. Faber and Todd Keeler-Wolf. University of California Press.
  • Schoenherr, Allan A. (1992) A Natural History of California. University of California Press.

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