Film reveals secrets of the saltmarsh

SAMPHIRES: Ella Paull was a fan of using the new field guide to discover samphires and learnt to identify two species. Picture: Supplied

SAMPHIRES: Ella Paull was a fan of using the new field guide to discover samphires and learnt to identify two species. Picture: Supplied

The launch of a new nature film this week in celebration of Seaweek titled ‘Secrets of the Samphire’ has highlighted the role the often-misunderstood coastal saltmarsh habitats play in supporting local livelihoods and lifestyles, particularly for recreational fishing and some of our largest fishing industries.

Natural Resources Eyre Peninsula marine parks coordinator Dr Shelley Paull said the locally-made film, along with the newly published native flora field guide ‘Samphires of Eyre Peninsula’, provided people with resources to satisfy their curiosity and develop a deeper understanding of saltmarshes.

“We recently hosted five guided tours of saltmarshes at Whyalla, Cowell, Arno Bay, Tumby Bay, Tulka and Streaky Bay with researcher and author Peri Coleman, and they were well attended by 120 tourists and locals,” she said.

“Some were a little apprehensive at first about getting their feet muddy, but once they had learnt a bit about this amazing and undervalued habitat, they were hooked.

“There’s strong demand to understand these ecosystems better, and once you start hearing about the role they play in storing more carbon than a rainforest, and seeing first-hand how they filter fresh and salt water, provide natural barriers to waves and erosion, and how important they are as breeding and nursery grounds for marine species such as juvenile king prawns, it’s easy to turn into a fan of samphires.”

Eyre Peninsula has 17 known species of samphire, with one new species recently identified by Peri Coleman and Barb Murphy during fieldwork.

Natural Resources EP ranger Elouise Schultz took part in the Arno Bay guided tour and said tourists from the caravan park were pleased to meet locals and take a closer look at the native salt-loving plants.

“At Arno Bay we have one of the few remaining populations of nationally-threatened Bead samphire (Tecticornia flabelliformis), which is very special and unique in itself,” she said.

“The Arno Bay boardwalk allows visitors to take in the estuary, mangroves and samphires from a ‘birds eye view’.

“We were able to see many crab holes and identify a number of different crab species – Peri Coleman shared how the crabs use the saltmarsh as an important breeding area, releasing baby crabs.”

She said when the tide came in numerous fish would then feed on the crabs and by the time the tide had turned the majority of those fish had doubled their body weight.

“It’s like a buffet fish party in the saltmarsh at times.”

You can collect a free copy of the ‘Samphires of Eyre Peninsula’ field guide by calling into your local Natural Resources EP office.