Vertical accretion and sediment accumulation rates were determined from the distribution of 137Cs in sediment cores, from historic documents, and from artificial white-coloured tracer layers in salt marshes in the Eastern Scheldt. Salt marsh accretion is related to the steady rise of the mean high tide in the Eastern Scheldt during the last few decades. Mean accretion rates vary from 0?4-0?9 cm year−1 in the St Annaland marsh to 1?0–1?5 cm year−1 in the Rattekaai marsh. Sediment accumulation in accreting marshes exceed the loss of sediment, by retreat of the marsh cliffs, by a factor of 10–20. Short-term spatial and temporal variations in accretion rates are large. Spatial variations are associated with levee and backmarsh sites and the density of marsh vegetation. Temporal variations are mainly related to fluctuations in hydrodynamic conditions. The net vertical accretion rate of organic carbon is 0?4±0?1 kg m−2 year−1; approximately half this rate is associated with the current deposit, and the other half with net additions from the belowground root biomass. A simple model for the root biomass distribution of Spartina anglica with depth and the depth-dependent fossilization of root biomass in sediments of the Rattekaai marsh is presented.