Studies in Australian intertidal wetlands are very much in their infancy. In recent years mangrove ecology has begun to receive much needed attention but saltmarshes seem destined for a Cinderella role with, however, no sign of the fairy godmother. Basic questions such as the extent of the resource, the nature of its flora and fauna, geographical variation and the relationships between saltmarshes and other ecosystems cannot be answered with any degree of certainty. The coastal zone, particularly in south eastern Australia, is under persistent pressure for development. Many saltmarshes have probably already been destroyed or heavily modified and in many areas the future of remaining sites are bleak. At least in the vicinity of urban development it seems that the most likely seral climax in saltmarch development is, as elsewhere in the world, a garbage tip. It is instructive to compare Hamilton’s (1919) account of the fringing saltmarsh vegetation of the Cook’s river with the current barren state of what is one of the most modified and polluted estuaries in Australia.
For most of the Australian coast what information we have about saltmarshes is provided by geomorphologists rather than ecologists. However, a few, widely scattered, saltmarsh systems have been studied in detail. The study of saltmarshes on the south side of Botany Bay (the most extensive saltmarsh system in central New South Wales), and of the factors influencing individual species by Clarke and Hannon (1967, 1969, 1970, 1971, and Kratochvil, Hannon and Clarke 1973) is one of the most intensive carried out on any marsh system. The Blackwood Estuary is Western Australia provides the first example of studies on nutrient pools and productivity of Australian marshes (Congdon and McComb 1980 a. b). Bridgewater’s (1975) phytosociological account of the marshes around Westernpoint Bay was the first detailed description of Australian saltmarsh vegetation.