Red List habitat classification > RLB - Coastal habitats > RLA2.5a Arctic coastal salt marsh

Arctic coastal salt marsh

Quick facts

Red List habitat type code RLA2.5a
Threat status
Europe Near Threatened
EU -
Relation to
Source European Red List habitat factsheet
European Red List of habitats reports
European Red List of habitats (Excel table)


This habitat comprises the coastal salt marshes from the Arctic Sea, in Europe found in estuaries and fjords along the north coast of Iceland, Norway and Russia, and besides on acrtic islands like Svalbard and Nova Zembla. Several salt-marsh species of the Atlantic coastal marshes do not reach this region, while other, typical arctic species are mainly restricted to it and only incidentally are found more southwards. The distinction between the Arctic region and the Northern Atlantic region is – of course – gradual, but for the salt marshes the presence of the alliances Puccinellion phryganodes (in lower salt-marsh belts) and Caricion glareosae (in higher belts) is a good indicator for the Arctic region. For the distinction between Atlantic and Arctic salt marshes we follow the boundaries and divisions given by Dijkema et al. (1984) for maritime plants (situated roughly between the 65 and 70°N latitudinal line). According to this definition the habitat type does not occur in the European Union, but within the EU28+ arctic salt marshes are found on the north-coast of Norway, the north-coast of Iceland, the Svalbard archipelago and Jan Mayen island. Besides the characteristic species of the mentioned alliances, Puccinellia phryganodes and Carex glareosa, other typical species of these arctic salt marshes are Potentilla anserina ssp. egedii, Stellaria humifusa, Gentianella detonsa, Carex salina, Carex ursina, Carex subspathacea and – in muddy places – the “Ice-Sea glasswort” Salicornia pojarkova. The habitat has several species in common with the Atlantic salt-marshes, like some species with a northern distribution in the Atlantic and Baltic (Puccinellia distans subsp. borealis, Carex mackenziei) and some widespread salt-marsh species like Triglochin maritima, Plantago maritima, Agrostis stolonifera and Festuca rubra, which this far north don’t become dominant.

Arctic coastal salt marshes are under pressure from coastal erosion, changes in sea ice, increased industriell activities ofshore as oil-drilling, and pollution.

Indicators of good quality:

  • Few open non-vegetated areas
  • Dominance of typical arctic species

  • No signs of erosion

  • No tracks of recreation or pollution.

Characteristic species
For full habitat description, please download the habitat factsheet.

Threat status

Synthesis of Red List assessment

No historical decline is known, but a general decline in salt marsh area is expected for the arctic region as a whole, as a result of coastal erosion due to sea level rise. Without any quantitative data for the EU28+ region the future trend in area (criterion A2a) is assessed to be at least close to Vulnerable, leading to the conclusion Near Threatened (NT). The same conclusion results from the relatively low number of sites (AOO) in combination with a future threat causing declines (criterion B2).
Red List Category Red List Criteria
- -
Red List Category Red List Criteria
Near Threatened A2a, B2

Confidence in the assessment

Red List of habitat categories and criteria descriptions

Pressures and threats

  • Pollution
    • Oil spills in the sea
  • Climate change
    • Sea-level changes

Habitat restoration potential

It is hard to predict if a destroyed habitat will recover, because processes occur very slowly in the Arctic environment. The natural fragmentation of the habitat is high, which makes it unpredictable how long it will take for charcateristic species to find there way back to restored salt marshes under natural conditions, although in general many salt marsh species may be dispersed relatively well by sea water or birds. If the natural contitions are restored and species come back there is still uncertanty about the success rate, because of the harsh climate.

Trends in extent

Average current trend in quantity

No occurrence Stable
EU28 EU28+

Trends in quality

Average current trend in quality

No occurrence Unknown
EU28 EU28+

Conservation and management needs

As the habitat is not under any actual threat, no conservation or managment are urgently needed, except that a representative number of sites should be protected as nature reserves. Further conservation measures to prevent erosion may be considered in areas with rising sea level.

List of conservation and management needs

  • No measures
    • No measures needed for the conservation of the habitat/species
  • Measures related to wetland, freshwater and coastal habitats
    • Other wetland related measures


For each habitat a distribution map was produced from a wide variety of sources indicating known and potential occurrences of the habitat in 10x10 km grids within Europe. Occurrences in grid cells were given in two classes: actual distribution from relatively reliable sources (surveys, expert knowledge), and potential distribution based on models or less reliable indicators. Please download the fact sheet to see the map.

Geographic occurrence and trends

EU28 Present or presence uncertain Current area of habitat (Km2) Recent trend in quantity (last 50 years) Recent trend in quality (last 50 years)
EU28 + Present or presence uncertain Current area of habitat (Km2) Recent trend in quantity (last 50 years) Recent trend in quality (last 50 years)
Iceland Present 0.5 Stable Stable
Norway Mainland Present 1 Stable Stable
Svalbard Present 1 Stable Stable
Jan Mayen Uncertain 1 Stable Stable

Extent of Occurrence, Area of Occupancy and habitat area

Extent of Occurrence (EOO) (Km2) Area of Occupancy (AOO) Current estimated Total Area Comment
EU28 - - - not in EU28
EU28+ 38 1.5 The area is manly based on expert judgement as very little data exist on this habitat
AOO = the area occupied by a habitat measured in number of 10x10 km grid cells.
EOO = the area (km2) of the envelope around all occurrences of a habitat (calculated by a minimum convex polygon).

Characteristic species

Not available

Vegetation types

Relation to vegetation types (syntaxa)

Not available

Other classifications

Not available
European Environment Agency (EEA)
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1050 Copenhagen K
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