Brackish Marsh

Habitat: Brackish Marsh
Brackish Marsh on Pea Island by Cindy Heffley

 The brackish marsh community occurs along the margins of sounds and estuaries in areas not subjected to regular flooding by salt water. Often referred to as “high marsh,” this community is subjected to irregular flooding mostly from wind tides along the Outer Banks. Salinity in the brackish marsh is generally low due to the distance from a saltwater source and freshwater inflow, but can be mid-range for brief periods. If a brackish marsh occurs in an area subjected to regular flooding with low salinity water, mineral deposition can result in mud flats. Black needlerush dominates the vegetation in the brackish marsh community, but patches of saltmeadow grass and salt grass are common, especially when fire frequency is close to the natural frequency of once every 3 years. Less common are patches of big cordgrass and sawgrass. As salinity increases, this community can grade into salt marsh or, if salinity decreases, freshwater marsh. This community is most prevalent in the middle and northern portions of the North Carolina coast. The refuge staff manages the brackish marshes with prescribed fire at a 3- to 5-year frequency to maintain herbaceous vegetative cover and suppress succession to woody vegetation.

Facts About Brackish Marsh

Typical Plants:


  • black needlerush
  • saltmeadow grass
  • salt grass
  • big cordgrass
  • sawgrass