Salt marshes provide numerous ecosystem functions including nursery habitat for fish and crabs, nutrient filtering and cycling, and high rates of primary productivity. Many commercially and recreationally important fish and shellfish species depend on marshes and estuaries for all or part of their life cycle, and many other forms of wildlife utilize wetlands as habitat and a source of food. In addition to these ecosystem services, marshes protect adjacent uplands from erosion and storm damage by absorbing and dissipating wave energy and establishing a root system to stabilize sediments. Despite these benefits, marshes and estuaries continue to be threatened by land development pressure. DHEC has direct permitting authority within these valuable natural resource areas to limit the potential negative impacts of human activities.
DHEC is responsible for managing development, alterations, and shoreline stabilization activities in coastal and estuarine "tidelands" (land at or below high tide including coastal wetlands, mudflats and similar areas adjacent to coastal waters and integral to estuarine systems). DHEC carries out these responsibilities through various research and policy development initiatives, planning, regulation and enforcement, restoration, and extension and education activities.