Enzyme and dispersal polymorphisms of the saltmarsh carabid beetles Pogonus chalceus and Dicheirotrichus gustavii were studied in European populations varying in size and in isolation in space and time. D. gustavii, a constantly fullwinged species, has a larger genetic diversity and a smaller genetic differentiation between populations than the wing-polymorphic P. chalceus. Clear relationships between population or site characteristics and genetic structure were not observed, except for the special position taken by some small populations in both species. The dispersal power of P. chalceus in small populations is larger than in large populations, suggesting that these populations are unstable and/or young. Small populations, however, do not always show a lower genetic diversity than large populations, as would be expected from genetic drift. Dispersal power in P. chalceus declines with increasing age of the saltmarsh, probably due to continuous emigration of winged individuals. Age and size of saltmarshes, although difficult to study independently, both appear to be important in determining the genetic structure of saltmarsh beetles. Maximum diversity in both parameters is therefore recommended as an optimal nature conservation strategy.