Results of the first published study on root decomposition in a West European salt marsh are presented. In situ decomposition of roots of Spartinetum, Puccinellietum and Halimionetum communities were investigated using litter bags. Both the temporal pattern of decomposition and decomposition rate of belowground tissues of the three communities differed during 30 weeks in the marsh; Puccinellietum root litter lost 30–45% ash-free dry weight, Halimionetum root litter 17–26% and Spartinetum root litter 7–17%. Compared to aboveground decomposition in salt marshes these rates are low, however they are in the range of results reported for American and Australian salt marshes. Decomposition rates of root material buried at depths of 10 and 20 cm differed and there was a community × depth interaction. Initial content of structural components was highest in Halimionetum root litter and lowest in Puccinellietum root litter. Integrated soil temperature was highest in the Puccinellietum habitat, while flooding frequency was lowest in the Halimionetum habitat. Results indicate that environmental conditions can cause irregular fluctuations in belowground decomposition rates.