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LIVE 24-SEVEN


92


Sea Milkwort – A small but attractive flower on the middle to upper reaches of the saltmarsh.


Common Sea Lavender and Sea Aster – Both these species provide a splash of colour in the summer.


OF THE SEVERN ESTUARY SALTMARSH


Have you ever heard of a saltmarsh? Gwent Wildlife Trust’s Senior Conservation Officer, Andy Karran gives us the lowdown on this fascinating tidal-influenced landscape, and why it’s a great place to visit this summer…


You will be familiar with meadows and woodlands, and likely visit these quite often. But, when was the last time, if ever, you visited a saltmarsh? And I mean really visited, not just scanned over them to look at the scenery or the birds on the mud beyond? I know they can be muddy, and at certain times and tides best avoided to keep yourself safe and avoid disturbing waders and ducks, but they are well worth closer inspection when possible.


While we lack rocky coasts and sandy bays in Gwent, with all the fun these can entail, we are amply compensated by the internationally important mud-flats in the Severn Estuary. Where there is a muddy estuary, there is inevitably saltmarsh! Our saltmarsh extends along much of the Gwent coast and even stretches surprisingly high-up our tidal rivers such as the Usk and the Wye. The coastal defences do however constrict the saltmarsh


in places, reducing its width – it’s generally better developed towards the western end.


The saltmarsh is the vegetated area of habitat that is regularly inundated by the tide. It thus forms a transitional zone between truly marine and truly terrestrial habitats. Broadly speaking, the saltmarsh lies between the High-water Neap (lowest high tides) and High-water Spring (highest high tides). This means it is situated on land that is covered by seawater at least occasionally, and in many cases daily. The contrasting extremes of conditions result in a suite of species that are specially adapted to survive these conditions. You’re unlikely to find them in any other places, although increasingly the edge of roads that have been treated with grit-salt, (even miles in-land), contain some species more typical of saltmarshes.


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GWENT WI LDL I F E TRUST SALTMARSH


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