Salt Marshes are some of the most productive areas on Planet Earth, often yielding 2 kg of above ground production per square meter, annually. Growth of marsh vegetation and utilization of incoming nutrients make salt marshes highly productive systems. In addition to providing habitat and food sources for many organisms, salt marshes benefit humans and surrounding ecosystems by sheltering coasts from erosion and filtering nutrients and sediments from the water column.
Salt marshes form in sheltered coastal areas where sediments accumulate and allow growth of angiosperm plants that comprise the foundation of the ecosystem. Salt marshes develop between terrestrial and marine environments, resulting in biologically diverse communities adapted for harsh environmental conditions including desiccation, flooding, and extreme temperature and salinity fluctuations. Marshes act as nurseries to a wide variety of organisms, some of which are notably threatened or marketed as important fisheries species.
Three papers on Salt Marsh Plant Ecology explain the true importance and wonders of the Salt Marsh community. Salt Marshes are usually characterized by dominant vascular plant life and biodiversity among harsh conditions (high salinities, waterlogging etc.) according to a paper written by Chapman in 1974. Different physical gradients of intertidal zones allow for close examination of the physical effects of different species. Terrestrial borders are usually decided by tough competition (possibly between different molluscs, plants, and other species).
Many marsh plants actually have adaptations to survive in such harsh conditions and improve salt marsh life. Many plants are built for shading to prevent soil evaporation, while some plants can still oxidize in harsh soils. One study was done on the parasitic plant Cuscuta salina in a California salt marsh. It was concluded that parasitic plants can have strong effects on the structure and dynamics of natural vegetation assemblages.
However, these effects are mediated by physical and biological gradients across the landscape with methods that were explained earlier in the other paper. Pennings paper on Salicorna virginica and Arthrocnemum subterminalis, major flooding, soil salinity, and tough competition determined the zonation and location of both plants in a New England salt marsh.