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Salinity in the Coastal Region

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Soil salinity along the Victorian coast-line overlaps with information relating to Western Victorian and Gippsland Regions, provided elsewhere on this website. However, this account deals only with plant species likely to be found within 10 m AHD (Australian Height Datum i.e. above average sea-level). Along many parts of the coast-line, this situation only occurs in estuaries, inlets and the lower reaches of rivers and streams and their associated flats, with connection to the sea. But it also includes swamps and plains behind sand dunes which may have been cut off from the sea by those dune systems. Along parts of the west coast, in particular, the coastal strip is very narrow due to the steep cliffs overlooking the beaches. In a few locations, coastal flats and plains may be extensive and include lakes and swamps, such as in the Gippsland Lakes, the Koo-wee-rup Swamp and the Port Phillip wetlands (incl. much of the Bellarine and Mornington Peninsulas).

A feature of most coastal plant vegetation is its tolerance to salt-spray, even though not all may be tolerant of saline soils and waters (surface or ground). Two plant lists are provided for the Coastal Region. The first, 'Soil-salinity Tolerant Plants - Coastal Region', consists of salt-tolerant species associated with coastal marshes, swamps, back-plains and saline river flats while the second, 'Salt-spray Tolerant Plants - Coastal Region', consists of those species largely confined to non-saline primary and secondary sand dunes. Some species of the dune systems, may also encroach on saline tracts and where such occur, they are included in both lists.

Much of the saline land along the coast-line is primary (natural) but in some parts, past clearing of swamps (e.g. Teatree and Paperbark swamps) has lead to increased salinity and the incursion of exotic salt-tolerant species. Where swamps have been burnt and cultivated (e.g. Koo-wee-rup), the peats and peaty soils which comprised the root zone of coastal vegetation has largely disappeared and resulted in subsidence or lowering of surface levels. Removal of vegetation and erosion of land surfaces have exposed acid sulfate soil in many areas along the coastline (e.g. Gippsland Lakes wetlands), which means that many current plant species have to cope with both salinity and acidity. To this end, note is made of species which appear to cope with both stresses.

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