Recently, spatial organization in salt marshes was shown to contain vital information on system resilience. However, in salt marshes, it remains poorly understood what shaping processes regulate spatial patterns in soil or vegetation properties that can be detected in the surface reflectance signal. In this case study we compared the effect on surface reflectance of four major shaping processes: Flooding duration, wave forcing, competition, and creek formation. We applied the ProSail model to a pioneering salt marsh species (Spartina anglica) to identify through which vegetation and soil properties these processes affected reflectance, and used in situ reflectance data at the leaf and canopy scale and satellite data on the canopy scale to identify the spatial patterns in the biophysical characteristics of this salt marsh pioneer in spring. Our results suggest that the spatial patterns in the pioneer zone of the studied salt marsh are mainly caused by the effect of flood duration. Flood duration explained over three times as much of the variation in canopy properties as wave forcing, competition, or creek influence. It particularly affects spatial patterns through canopy properties, especially the leaf area index, while leaf characteristics appear to have a relatively minor effect on reflectance.