skip to main content

This content will become publicly available on September 1, 2023

Title: A Conterminous USA-Scale Map of Relative Tidal Marsh Elevation
Abstract Tidal wetlands provide myriad ecosystem services across local to global scales. With their uncertain vulnerability or resilience to rising sea levels, there is a need for mapping flooding drivers and vulnerability proxies for these ecosystems at a national scale. However, tidal wetlands in the conterminous USA are diverse with differing elevation gradients, and tidal amplitudes, making broad geographic comparisons difficult. To address this, a national-scale map of relative tidal elevation ( Z * MHW ), a physical metric that normalizes elevation to tidal amplitude at mean high water (MHW), was constructed for the first time at 30 × 30-m resolution spanning the conterminous USA. Contrary to two study hypotheses, watershed-level median Z * MHW and its variability generally increased from north to south as a function of tidal amplitude and relative sea-level rise. These trends were also observed in a reanalysis of ground elevation data from the Pacific Coast by Janousek et al. (Estuaries and Coasts 42 (1): 85–98, 2019). Supporting a third hypothesis, propagated uncertainty in Z * MHW increased from north to south as light detection and ranging (LiDAR) errors had an outsized effect under narrowing tidal amplitudes. The drivers of Z * MHW and its variability are difficult more » to determine because several potential causal variables are correlated with latitude, but future studies could investigate highest astronomical tide and diurnal high tide inequality as drivers of median Z * MHW and Z * MHW variability, respectively. Watersheds of the Gulf Coast often had propagated Z * MHW uncertainty greater than the tidal amplitude itself emphasizing the diminished practicality of applying Z * MHW as a flooding proxy to microtidal wetlands. Future studies could focus on validating and improving these physical map products and using them for synoptic modeling of tidal wetland carbon dynamics and sea-level rise vulnerability analyses. « less
Award ID(s):
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Estuaries and Coasts
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
1596 to 1614
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Elevation is a major driver of plant ecology and sediment dynamics in tidal wetlands, so accurate and precise spatial data are essential for assessing wetland vulnerability to sea-level rise and making forecasts. We performed survey-grade elevation and vegetation surveys of the Global Change Research Wetland, a brackish microtidal wetland in the Chesapeake Bay estuary, Maryland (USA), to both intercompare unbiased digital elevation model (DEM) creation techniques and to describe niche partitioning of several common tidal wetland plant species. We identified a tradeoff between scalability and performance in creating unbiased DEMs, with more data intensive methods such as kriging performing better than 3 more scalable methods involving postprocessing of light detection and ranging (LiDAR)-based DEMs. The LiDAR Elevation Correction with Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (LEAN) method provided a compromise between scalability and performance, although it underpredicted variability in elevation. In areas where native plants dominated, the sedge Schoenoplectus americanus occupied more frequently flooded areas (median: 0.22, 95% range: 0.09 to 0.31 m relative to North America Vertical Datum of 1988 [NAVD88]) and the grass Spartina patens, less frequently flooded (0.27, 0.1 to 0.35 m NAVD88). Non-native Phragmites australis dominated at lower elevations more than the native graminoids, but had a widemore »flooding tolerance, encompassing both their ranges (0.19, −0.05 to 0.36 m NAVD88). The native shrub Iva frutescens also dominated at lower elevations (0.20, 0.04 to 0.30 m NAVD88), despite being previously described as a high marsh species. These analyses not only provide valuable context for the temporally rich but spatially restricted data collected at a single well-studied site, but also provide broad insight into mapping techniques and species zonation.« less
  2. Abstract
    Site description. This data package consists of data obtained from sampling surface soil (the 0-7.6 cm depth profile) in black mangrove (Avicennia germinans) dominated forest and black needlerush (Juncus roemerianus) saltmarsh along the Gulf of Mexico coastline in peninsular west-central Florida, USA. This location has a subtropical climate with mean daily temperatures ranging from 15.4 °C in January to 27.8 °C in August, and annual precipitation of 1336 mm. Precipitation falls as rain primarily between June and September. Tides are semi-diurnal, with 0.57 m median amplitudes during the year preceding sampling (U.S. NOAA National Ocean Service, Clearwater Beach, Florida, station 8726724). Sea-level rise is 4.0 ± 0.6 mm per year (1973-2020 trend, mean ± 95 % confidence interval, NOAA NOS Clearwater Beach station). The A. germinans mangrove zone is either adjacent to water or fringed on the seaward side by a narrow band of red mangrove (Rhizophora mangle). A near-monoculture of J. roemerianus is often adjacent to and immediately landward of the A. germinans zone. The transition from the mangrove to the J. roemerianus zone is variable in our study area. An abrupt edge between closed-canopy mangrove and J. roemerianus monoculture may extend for up to several hundred metersMore>>
  3. Abstract. The interaction between storm surge and concurrent precipitation is poorly understood in many coastal regions. This paper investigates the potential compound effects from these two flooding drivers along the coast of China for the first time by using the most comprehensive records of storm surge and precipitation. Statistically significant dependence between flooding drivers exists at the majority of locations that are analysed, but the strength of the correlation varies spatially and temporally and depending on how extreme events are defined. In general, we find higher dependence at the south-eastern tide gauges (TGs) (latitude < 30∘ N) compared to the northern TGs. Seasonal variations in the dependence are also evident. Overall there are more sites with significant dependence in the tropical cyclone (TC) season, especially in the summer. Accounting for past sea level rise further increases the dependence between flooding drivers, and future sea level rise will hence likely lead to an increase in the frequency of compound events. We also find notable differences in the meteorological patterns associated with events where both drivers are extreme versus events where only one driver is extreme. Events with both extreme drivers at south-eastern TG sites are caused by low-pressure systems with similar characteristics across locations, including high precipitable watermore »content (PWC) and strong winds that generate high storm surge. Based on historical disaster damages records of Hong Kong, events with both extreme drivers account for the vast majority of damages and casualties, compared to univariate flooding events, where only one flooding driver occurred. Given the large coastal population and low capacity of drainage systems in many Chinese urban coastal areas, these findings highlight the necessity to incorporate compound flooding and its potential changes in a warming climate into risk assessments, urban planning, and the design of coastal infrastructure and flood defences.« less
  4. Abstract

    The vulnerability of coastal environments to sea-level rise varies spatially, particularly due to local land subsidence. However, high-resolution observations and models of coastal subsidence are scarce, hindering an accurate vulnerability assessment. We use satellite data from 2007 to 2020 to create high-resolution map of subsidence rate at mm-level accuracy for different land covers along the ~3,500 km long US Atlantic coast. Here, we show that subsidence rate exceeding 3 mm per year affects most coastal areas, including wetlands, forests, agricultural areas, and developed regions. Coastal marshes represent the dominant land cover type along the US Atlantic coast and are particularly vulnerable to subsidence. We estimate that 58 to 100% of coastal marshes are losing elevation relative to sea level and show that previous studies substantially underestimate marsh vulnerability by not fully accounting for subsidence.

  5. Abstract Shorelines and their ecosystems are endangered by sea-level rise. Nature-based coastal protection is becoming a global strategy to enhance coastal resilience through the cost-effective creation, restoration and sustainable use of coastal wetlands. However, the resilience to sea-level rise of coastal wetlands created under Nature-based Solution has been assessed largely on a regional scale. Here we assess, using a meta-analysis, the difference in accretion, elevation, and sediment deposition rates between natural and restored coastal wetlands across the world. Our results show that restored coastal wetlands can trap more sediment and that the effectiveness of these restoration projects is primarily driven by sediment availability, not by wetland elevation, tidal range, local rates of sea-level rise, and significant wave height. Our results suggest that Nature-based Solutions can mitigate coastal wetland vulnerability to sea-level rise, but are effective only in coastal locations where abundant sediment supply is available.