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Wetland Types

Wetlands come in many "flavors" and each type has a unique set of characteristics. In this section, we have compiled the types of wetlands, based on salinity and tidal characteristics, that are found in Delaware.

Salt and brackish marshes cover Delaware’s coast from the upper margins of Delaware Bay south to the Inland Bays. Flooded twice daily by tidal waters carrying salt water from the ocean and bay, these habitats are strongly influenced by salinity - becoming less salty the further up bay, river and stream. Dense stands of Spartina grasses characterize the treeless landscape. A more varied flora and fauna can be found as the water becomes less salty.

Freshwater Tidal Marsh
Freshwater Tidal Marsh


Atlantic sturgeon (Acipenser oxyrinchus, top) and short-nosed sturgeon (Acipenser brevirostrum, bottom) DNREC Division of Fish & Wildlife photo. Freshwater tidal marshes serve as crucial habitats and breeding grounds for the endangered short-nosed sturgeon. These habitats are a high priority for preservation and restoration.


Freshwater Tidal Marshes

Freshwater tidal marshes are becoming rare in Delaware due to salt water intrusion (salt water from the ocean flooding into these marshes) from sea-level rise, with the best remaining examples occurring upstate along the Christina River and downstate along the upper reaches of the Nanticoke River. Like salt and brackish marshes, they are flooded daily with tidal inputs, but are so diluted by freshwater sources that their salinity levels are negligible. These conditions foster a high diversity of wetland plants, including: spatterdock, pickerelweed, arrowhead, cattail, wild rice, water-willow, buttonbush and others. 

Because freshwater tidal marshes have become scarce, and since what remains supports numerous rare and threatened plant species (many of which are being displaced by invasives such as Phragmites), these habitats merit a high priority for preservation and restoration. 


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