Influence of tidal range on the stability of coastal marshland

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Abstract

[1] Early comparisons between rates of vertical accretion and sea level rise across marshes in different tidal ranges inspired a paradigm that marshes in high tidal range environments are more resilient to sea level rise than marshes in low tidal range environments. We use field-based observations to propose a relationship between vegetation growth and tidal range and to adapt two numerical models of marsh evolution to explicitly consider the effect of tidal range on the response of the marsh platform channel network system to accelerating rates of sea level rise. We find that the stability of both the channel network and vegetated platform increases with increasing tidal range. Our results support earlier hypotheses that suggest enhanced stability can be directly attributable to a vegetation growth range that expands with tidal range. Accretion rates equilibrate to the rate of sea level rise in all experiments regardless of tidal range, suggesting that comparisons between accretion rate and tidal range will not likely produce a significant relationship. Therefore, our model results offer an explanation to widely inconsistent field-based attempts to quantify this relationship while still supporting the long-held paradigm that high tidal range marshes are indeed more stable.

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