Salt marsh area is not well inventoried. The global extent of pan, brackish, and saline wetlands is approximately 435 000 km2, or 0.3% of the total surface area and 5% of total wetland area. In USA, the 48 conterminous states have about 1.7 Mha of salt marshes, out of a total of 42 Mha of wetlands.

While broadly distributed, salt marshes are most common in temperate and higher latitudes where the temperature of the warmest month is >0 °C. Closer to the equator, where the mean temperatures of the coldest months are >20 °C, salt marshes are generally replaced by mangroves. Salt marshes sometimes occur inland of mangroves or instead of mangroves where woody plants have been removed.

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