Friends of Scarborough Marsh

We are a coalition of private citizens and organizations who
conserve, protect, restore, and enhance the Scarborough Marsh watershed.





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Save the Date


April 26th 2014
Spring Clean Up of the Marsh




Scarborough Marsh — A Resource to Treasure!

In the midst of a still developing landscape just south of Portland, Scarborough Marsh is Maine's largest and best known salt marsh. The 3,100 acre Scarborough Marsh Wildlife Management Area, owned and managed by the State of Maine, Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, includes approximately 2,700 acres of salt marsh, five tidal rivers, several smaller streams, some coastal freshwater marsh, tidal flats, and less than 200 acres of upland habitat.

The Scarborough Marsh is a regionally and internationally significant resource.

The Scarborough Marsh accounts for 15% of the state's total tidal marsh area, making it the largest contiguous marsh system in the State of Maine. Salt marshes are one of the rarest habitat types in Maine, consisting of less than 19,000 acres (or less than 0.01% ) of Maine's total 21,146,600 acres. Salt marshes account for only 0.4% of Maine's entire wetland acreage.

The Scarborough Marsh is valued and enjoyed by tens of thousands of people each year. The marsh supports a variety of human activities, including canoeing and kayaking, bird watching, clam digging and fishing for fun or for profit, and hunting. The open skies, grassy expanses, coastal vistas, and changing waterlevels appeal to many, and the play of light and shadow challenges painters and photographers alike. The Scarborough Marsh offers naturalists and schoolchildren an ideal "outdoor classroom."

People have recognized the marsh's value for many thousands of years. Early inhabitants harvested birds, fish, and shellfish; later settlers also depended on the marsh for livestock fodder. Today the marsh is still a valuable component of the region's commercial fishing and tourism industries.


Tidal marshes are highly productive ecosystems, providing breeding and feeding habitat for numerous plants and animals.

72% of water-dependent birds identified statewide were found at Scarborough Marsh, according to Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife; furthermore, recent statewide surveys by MDIFW biologists at 53 salt marshes indicate that Scarborough Marsh has the highest diversity of water-dependent bird species found in any of Maine’s salt marshes.

The USFWS confirms that the marsh provides high value habitat for 27 endangered, threatened, rare or declining bird species in Southern Maine and that all 43 species of endangered, threatened, declining, and/or rare trust resources (including both plants and animals) inhabiting coastal Southern Maine. The marsh plays a key role in the recovery of peregrine falcons and bald eagles which visit the marsh to forage and rest.

Scarborough Marsh is located within 1.5 miles of two nationally significant seabird nesting islands, including Stratton Island just off Prout’s Neck, several beaches which support breeding birds, and several sizable parcels of land owned and protected by the Scarborough Land Conservation Trust. Nesting roseate terns from Stratton Island, which plays an important role in the survival of nearly all roseate terns in the Northeast, forage for food in the Marsh. Because Scarborough Marsh provides documented foraging habitat for piping plovers and least terns, it has been designated “essential habitat” for these endangered shorebirds.

Scarborough Marsh’s tidal rivers and streams, salt marsh, pannes, and mudflats support commercially, recreationally, and /or ecologically valuable fish and shellfish including soft-shelled clams, sea worms, alewives, striped bass, smelt, sea run brook trout, and eel. The marsh also protects high value habitat for shad, river herring - alewives, blue black herring, and winter flounder.

Tidal creeks and pannes in the high marsh provide habitat for silversides and mummichogs which are key prey species for waterfowl and wading birds. The Scarborough Marsh supports the greatest number of shorebird and wading bird species statewide. Biological surveys confirm that black duck, blue-winged and green-winged teal, and wood duck nest in the marsh area. The marsh is also an important seasonal habitat for migrating species, including the black duck which have declined dramatically.

The National Marine Fisheries Service has designated Saco Bay as “essential fish habitat” for Atlantic salmon; pollock; whiting; hake; winter, yellowtail, and windowpane flounder; American plaice; ocean pout; halibut; sea scallop; sea herring; bluefish; and mackerel. With five major tributaries, the Scarborough Marsh flows into Saco Bay, and the high concentrations of herring, hake, and sand lance in Saco Bay depend directly on the delivery of clean and nourishing waters from the marsh.

Tidal marshes fulfill important natural functions.

Tidal marshes form in low-lying coastal areas that are sheltered from strong winds, waves, and currents. Nourished by tidal flows and with rapidly growing grasses, salt marshes form the basis of a highly productive food web. They are complex natural systems which support different plants and animals in a variety of habitats.
In addition to nourishing many species of birds, finfish, shellfish, and invertebrates, marshes buffer upland shorelines against erosive actions of open water, protect low-lying uplands and shorelines during storms, and maintain water quality.


Visit our resource library for more about salt marshes.









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