Salt marshes are valued for their ecosystem services, and their vulnerability is typically assessed through biotic and abiotic measurements at individual points on the landscape. However, lateral erosion can lead to rapid marsh loss as marshes build vertically. Marsh sediment budgets represent a spatially integrated measure of competing constructive and destructive forces: a sediment surplus may result in vertical growth and/or lateral expansion, while a sediment deficit may result in drowning and/or lateral contraction. Here we show that sediment budgets of eight microtidal marsh complexes consistently scale with areal unvegetated/vegetated marsh ratios (UVVR) suggesting these metrics are broadly applicable indicators of microtidal marsh vulnerability. All sites are exhibiting a sediment deficit, with half the sites having projected lifespans of less than 350 years at current rates of sea-level rise and sediment availability. These results demonstrate that open-water conversion and sediment deficits are holistic and sensitive indicators of salt marsh vulnerability.
Salt marsh losses have been documented worldwide because of land use change, wave erosion, and sea-level rise. It is still unclear how resistant salt marshes are to extreme storms and whether they can survive multiple events without collapsing. Based on a large dataset of salt marsh lateral erosion rates collected around the world, here, we determine the general response of salt marsh boundaries to wave action under normal and extreme weather conditions. As wave energy increases, salt marsh response to wind waves remains linear, and there is not a critical threshold in wave energy above which salt marsh erosion drastically accelerates. We apply our general formulation for salt marsh erosion to historical wave climates at eight salt marsh locations affected by hurricanes in the United States. Based on the analysis of two decades of data, we find that violent storms and hurricanes contribute less than 1% to long-term salt marsh erosion rates. In contrast, moderate storms with a return period of 2.5 mo are those causing the most salt marsh deterioration. Therefore, salt marshes seem more susceptible to variations in mean wave energy rather than changes in the extremes. The intrinsic resistance of salt marshes to violent storms and their predictable erosion rates during moderate events should be taken into account by coastal managers in restoration projects and risk management plans.salt marsh | resilience | hurricanes | wind waves | erosion T he potential of salt marshes to serve as natural buffers against violent storms seems even more important in view of significant threats imposed by climate change, such as increased storminess and higher hurricane activity registered in the past decades (1-12). Recent research results show that salt marshes reduce wave energy during storms and possibly, mitigate storm surges (13-15). These results triggered a flurry of planned coastal restorations centered on the concept of "living shorelines" (14), which use vegetated surfaces to reduce the impact of hurricanes (13-16). However, little is known about the endurance of salt marshes against wave action and whether such ecosystems can survive extreme events.Most marsh erosion occurs at its seaward boundary, where the effect of waves is concentrated (2, 3). Wave erosion constitutes one of the main contributions to salt marsh deterioration, and even very small waves can cause failure of large salt marsh blocks (2,7,17). Despite the complexity of the problem, some studies have identified a correlation between wave energy and lateral rates of marsh erosion (18,19). Erosion of marsh edges by wave action is caused by many different mechanisms, such as the indentation of V-shaped notches into linear stretches of shoreline or cliff undercutting when lower sediment layers are eroded more rapidly than the overhanging root mats (2,17,19). Varying resistance to wave erosion can be caused by biotic and abiotic factors, such as geotechnical characteristics of the sediments (7, 20), vegetation characteristics (21), height of the marsh scarp, an...
Dynamic tidal export of dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) to the coastal ocean from highly productive intertidal marshes and its effects on seawater carbonate chemistry are thoroughly evaluated. The study uses a comprehensive approach by combining tidal water sampling of CO 2 parameters across seasons, continuous in situ measurements of biogeochemically-relevant parameters and water fluxes, with high-resolution modeling in an intertidal salt marsh of the U.S. northeast region. Salt marshes can acidify and alkalize tidal water by injecting CO 2 (DIC) and total alkalinity (TA). DIC and TA generation may also be decoupled due to differential effects of marsh aerobic and anaerobic respiration on DIC and TA. As marsh DIC is added to tidal water, the buffering capacity first decreases to a minimum and then increases quickly. Large additions of marsh DIC can result in higher buffering capacity in ebbing tide than incoming tide. Alkalization of tidal water, which mostly occurs in the summer due to anaerobic respiration, can further modify buffering capacity. Marsh exports of DIC and alkalinity may have complex implications for the future, more acidified ocean. Marsh DIC export exhibits high variability over tidal and seasonal cycles, which is modulated by both marsh DIC generation and by water fluxes. The marsh DIC export of 414 g C m 22 yr 21 , based on highresolution measurements and modeling, is more than twice the previous estimates. It is a major term in the marsh carbon budget and translates to one of the largest carbon fluxes along the U.S. East Coast.
 Anthropogenic and climatic forces have modified the geomorphology of tidal wetlands over a range of timescales. Changes in land use, sediment supply, river flow, storminess, and sea level alter the layout of tidal channels, intertidal flats, and marsh plains; these elements define wetland complexes. Diagnostically, measurements of net sediment fluxes through tidal channels are high-temporal resolution, spatially integrated quantities that indicate (1) whether a complex is stable over seasonal timescales and (2) what mechanisms are leading to that state. We estimated sediment fluxes through tidal channels draining wetland complexes on the Blackwater and Transquaking Rivers, Maryland, USA. While the Blackwater complex has experienced decades of degradation and been largely converted to open water, the Transquaking complex has persisted as an expansive, vegetated marsh. The measured net export at the Blackwater complex (1.0 kg/s or 0.56 kg/m 2 /yr over the landward marsh area) was caused by northwesterly winds, which exported water and sediment on the subtidal timescale; tidally forced net fluxes were weak and precluded landward transport of suspended sediment from potential seaward sources. Though wind forcing also exported sediment at the Transquaking complex, strong tidal forcing and proximity to a turbidity maximum led to an import of sediment (0.031 kg/s or 0.70 kg/m 2 /yr). This resulted in a spatially averaged accretion of 3.9 mm/yr, equaling the regional relative sea level rise. Our results suggest that in areas where seaward sediment supply is dominant, seaward wetlands may be more capable of withstanding sea level rise over the short term than landward wetlands. We propose a conceptual model to determine a complex's tendency toward stability or instability based on sediment source, wetland channel location, and transport mechanisms. Wetlands with a reliable portfolio of sources and transport mechanisms appear better suited to offset natural and anthropogenic loss.
This manuscript reviews the progresses made in the understanding of the dynamic interactions between coastal storms and salt marshes, including the dissipation of extreme water levels and wind waves across marsh surfaces, the geomorphic impact of storms on salt marshes, the preservation of hurricanes signals and deposits into the sedimentary records, and the importance of storms for the long term survival of salt marshes to sea level rise. A review of weaknesses, and strengths of coastal defences incorporating the use of salt marshes including natural, and hybrid infrastructures in comparison to standard built solutions is then presented. Salt marshes are effective in dissipating wave energy, and storm surges, especially when the marsh is highly elevated, and continuous. This buffering action reduces for storms lasting more than one day. Storm surge attenuation rates range from 1.7 to 25 cm/km depending on marsh and storms characteristics. In terms of vegetation properties, the more flexible stems tend to flatten during powerful storms, and to dissipate less energy but they are also more resilient to structural damage, and their flattening helps to protect the marsh surface from erosion, while stiff plants tend to break, and could increase the turbulence level and the scour. From a morphological point of view, salt marshes are generally able to withstand violent storms without collapsing, and violent storms are responsible for only a small portion of the long term marsh erosion. Our considerations highlight the necessity to focus on the indirect long term impact that large storms exerts on the whole marsh complex rather than on sole after-storm periods. The morphological consequences of storms, even if not dramatic, might in fact influence the response of the system to normal weather conditions during following inter-storm periods. For instance, storms can cause tidal flats deepening which in turn promotes wave energy propagation, and exerts a long term detrimental effect for marsh boundaries even during calm weather. On the other hand, when a violent storm causes substantial erosion but sediments are redistributed across nearby areas, the long term impact might not be as severe as if sediments were permanently lost from the system, and the salt marsh could easily recover to the initial state.
Between the land and ocean, diverse coastal ecosystems transform, store, and transport material. Across these interfaces, the dynamic exchange of energy and matter is driven by hydrological and hydrodynamic processes such as river and groundwater discharge, tides, waves, and storms. These dynamics regulate ecosystem functions and Earth's climate, yet global models lack representation of coastal processes and related feedbacks, impeding their predictions of coastal and global responses to change. Here, we assess existing coastal monitoring networks and regional models, existing challenges in these efforts, and recommend a path towards development of global models that more robustly reflect the coastal interface. T he coastal interface, where the land and ocean realms meet (e.g., estuaries, tidal wetlands, tidal rivers, continental shelves, and shorelines), is home to some of the most biologically and geochemically active and diverse systems on Earth 1. Although this interface only represents a small fraction of the Earth's surface, it supports a large suite of ecosystem services,
Despite the importance of sediment availability on wetland stability, vulnerability assessments seldom consider spatiotemporal variability of sediment transport. Models predict that the maximum rate of sea level rise a marsh can survive is proportional to suspended sediment concentration (SSC) and accretion. In contrast, we find that SSC and accretion are higher in an unstable marsh than in an adjacent stable marsh, suggesting that these metrics cannot describe wetland vulnerability. Therefore, we propose the flood/ebb SSC differential and organic‐inorganic suspended sediment ratio as better vulnerability metrics. The unstable marsh favors sediment export (18 mg L−1 higher on ebb tides), while the stable marsh imports sediment (12 mg L−1 higher on flood tides). The organic‐inorganic SSC ratio is 84% higher in the unstable marsh, and stable isotopes indicate a source consistent with marsh‐derived material. These simple metrics scale with sediment fluxes, integrate spatiotemporal variability, and indicate sediment sources.
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