Hydrology and Land Surface Studies
Limits on the adaptability of coastal marshes to rising sea level
Article first published online: 1 DEC 2010
Copyright 2010 by the American Geophysical Union.
Geophysical Research Letters
Volume 37, Issue 23, December 2010
How to Cite
2010), Limits on the adaptability of coastal marshes to rising sea level, Geophys. Res. Lett., 37, L23401, doi:10.1029/2010GL045489., , , , , and (
- Issue published online: 1 DEC 2010
- Article first published online: 1 DEC 2010
- Manuscript Accepted: 21 OCT 2010
- Manuscript Revised: 18 OCT 2010
- Manuscript Received: 13 SEP 2010
- global change;
 Assumptions of a static landscape inspire predictions that about half of the world's coastal wetlands will submerge during this century in response to sea-level acceleration. In contrast, we use simulations from five numerical models to quantify the conditions under which ecogeomorphic feedbacks allow coastal wetlands to adapt to projected changes in sea level. In contrast to previous sea-level assessments, we find that non-linear feedbacks among inundation, plant growth, organic matter accretion, and sediment deposition, allow marshes to survive conservative projections of sea-level rise where suspended sediment concentrations are greater than ∼20 mg/L. Under scenarios of more rapid sea-level rise (e.g., those that include ice sheet melting), marshes will likely submerge near the end of the 21st century. Our results emphasize that in areas of rapid geomorphic change, predicting the response of ecosystems to climate change requires consideration of the ability of biological processes to modify their physical environment.