Control of wind-wave power on morphological shape of salt marsh margins
© 2020 Hohai University Salt marshes are among the most common morphological features found in tidal landscapes and provide ecosystem services of primary ecological and economic importance. However, the continued rise in relative sea level and increasing anthropogenic pressures threaten the sustainability of these environments. The alarmingly high rates of salt marsh loss observed worldwide, mainly dictated by the lateral erosion of their margins, call for new insights into the mutual feedbacks among physical, biological, and morphological processes that take place at the critical interface between salt marshes and the adjoining tidal flats. We combined field measurements, remote sensing data, and numerical modeling to investigate the interplays between wind waves and the morphology, ecology, and planform evolution of salt marsh margins in the Venice Lagoon of Italy. Our results confirm the existence of a positive linear relationship between incoming wave power density and rates of salt marsh lateral retreat. In addition, we show that lateral erosion significantly decreases when halophytic vegetation colonizes the marsh margins, and that different erosion rates in vegetated margins are associated with different halophytes. High marsh cliffs and smooth shorelines are expected along rapidly eroding margins, whereas erosion rates are reduced in gently sloped, irregular edges facing shallow tidal flats that are typically exposed to low wind-energy conditions. By highlighting the relationships between the dynamics and functional forms of salt marsh margins, our results represent a critical step to address issues related to conservation and restoration of salt marsh ecosystems, especially in the face of changing environmental forcings.
Finotello, A; Marani, M; Carniello, L; Pivato, M; Roner, M; Tommasini, L; D'alpaos, A
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