Tidal marshes form at the confluence between estuarine and marine environments where tidal movement regulates their developmental processes. Here, we investigate how the interplay between tides, channel morphology, and vegetation affect sediment dynamics in a low energy tidal marsh at the Paul S. Sarbanes Ecosystem Restoration Project at Poplar Island. Poplar Island is an active restoration site where fine‐grained material dredged from navigation channels in the upper Chesapeake Bay are being used to restore remote tidal marsh habitat toward the middle bay (Maryland, USA). Tidal currents were measured over multiple tidal cycles in the inlets and tidal creeks of one marsh at Poplar Island, Cell 1B, using Acoustic Doppler Current Profilers (ADCP) to estimate water fluxes throughout the marsh complex. Sediment fluxes were estimated using acoustic backscatter recorded by ADCPs and validated against total suspended solid measurements taken on site. A high‐resolution geomorphic survey was conducted to capture channel cross sections and tidal marsh morphology. We integrated simple numerical models built in Delft3d with empirical observations to identify which eco‐geomorphological factors influence sediment distribution in various channel configurations with differing vegetative characteristics. Channel morphology influences flood‐ebb dominance in marshes, where deep, narrow channels promote high tidal velocities and incision, increasing sediment suspension and reducing resilience in marshes at Poplar Island. Our numerical models suggest that accurately modelling plant phenology is vital for estimating sediment accretion rates. In‐situ observations indicate that Poplar Island marshes are experiencing erosion typical for many Chesapeake Bay islands. Peak periods of sediment suspension frequently coincide with the largest outflows of water during ebb tides resulting in large sediment deficits. Ebb dominance (net sediment export) in tidal marshes is likely amplified by sea‐level rise and may lower marsh resilience. We couple field observations with numerical models to understand how tidal marsh morphodynamics contribute to marsh resilience. © 2019 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Sediment supply is a primary factor in determining marsh response to sea level rise and is typically approximated through high‐resolution measurements of suspended sediment concentrations (SSCs) from adjacent tidal channels. However, understanding sediment transport across the marsh itself remains limited by discontinuous measurements of SSC over individual tidal cycles. Here, we use an array of optical turbidity sensors to build a long‐term, continuous record of SSC across a marsh platform and adjacent tidal channel. We find that channel and marsh concentrations are correlated (i.e., coupled) within tidal cycles but are largely decoupled over longer time scales. We also find that net sediment fluxes decline to near zero within 10 m of the marsh edge. Together, these results suggest that large sections of the marsh platform receive minimal sediment independent of flooding frequency or channel sediment supply. Marsh‐centric, as opposed to channel‐centric, measures of sediment supply may better characterize marsh platform vulnerability.more » « less
- NSF-PAR ID:
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- DOI PREFIX: 10.1029
- Date Published:
- Journal Name:
- Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface
- Medium: X
- Sponsoring Org:
- National Science Foundation
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