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Title: Elevation Changes in Restored Marshes at Poplar Island, Chesapeake Bay, MD: II. Modeling the Importance of Marsh Development Time

Tidal marshes in the Chesapeake Bay are vulnerable to the accelerating rate of sea-level rise (SLR) and subsidence. Restored and created marshes face the same risks as natural marshes, and their resilience to SLR may depend upon appropriate design and implementation. Here, the Coastal Wetland Equilibrium Model (CWEM) was used to assess the resilience of tidal marshes at the Paul S. Sarbanes Ecosystem Restoration Project at Poplar Island (PI) in mid-Chesapeake Bay, MD, where dredged material from navigation channels is being used to create new tidal marshes planted withSpartina alterniflorain the low marsh andS. patensin the high marsh. The site is microtidal with low inorganic sediment inputs, where the rate of marsh elevation change is dominated by the production of organic matter and, therefore, is proportional to net ecosystem production (NEP). The model demonstrated the importance of marsh development for surface elevation gain. In created marshes, the buildout of belowground biomass adds volume and results in faster growth of marsh elevation, but the gains slow as the marsh matures. Elevation gain is the lessor of the recalcitrant fraction of NEP sequestered in sediment or the rate of increase in accommodation space. Marshes can keep up with and fill accommodation space with sequestered NEP up to a tipping point determined by the rate of SLR. The PI low marsh platform was forecasted to drown in about 43 years after construction at the current rate of SLR. Marsh loss can be mitigated by periodic thin layer placement (TLP) of sediment. CWEM was used to simulate PI marsh responses to different TLP strategies and showed that there is an optimal design that will maximize carbon sequestration and resilience depending on the trajectory of mean sea level.

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Author(s) / Creator(s):
Publisher / Repository:
Springer Science + Business Media
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Estuaries and Coasts
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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