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Title: Quantifying Seasonal Seagrass Effects on Flow and Sediment Dynamics in a Back‐Barrier Bay

Seagrass growth and senescence exert a strong influence on flow structure and sediment transport processes in coastal environments. However, most previous studies of seasonal seagrass effects either focused on small‐scale field measurements or did not fully resolve the synergistic effects of flow‐wave‐vegetation‐sediment interaction at a meadow scale. In this study, we applied a coupled Delft3D‐FLOW and SWAN model that included effects of seagrass on flow, waves, and sediment resuspension in a shallow coastal bay to quantify seasonal seagrass impacts on bay dynamics. The model was extensively validated using seasonal field hydrodynamic and suspended sediment data within a seagrass meadow and a nearby unvegetated site. Our results show that seagrass meadows significantly attenuated flow (60%) and waves (20%) and reduced suspended sediment concentration (85%) during summer when its density reached a maximum. Probability density distributions of combined wave‐current bed shear stress within the seagrass meadow indicate that significant reductions in sediment resuspension during summer were mainly caused by flow retardation rather than wave attenuation. Although low‐density seagrass in winter resulted in much smaller reductions in flow and waves compared with summer meadows, small changes in winter seagrass density resulted in large differences in the magnitude of attenuation of flow and shear stress. Similarly, while high seagrass densities effectively trapped sediment during summer, small changes in winter density resulted in strong changes in net sediment flux into/out of the meadow. At our study site, low seagrass densities provided significant reductions in wintertime sediment loss compared to losses associated with completely unvegetated conditions.

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DOI PREFIX: 10.1029
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Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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