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Salt Marsh Tidal Channel Morphometry: Applications for Wetland Creation and Restoration


Current address: 363 Hancock Road, Warminster, PA 18974, U.S.A.


The morphometry of tidal channels in a back-barrier salt marsh in New Jersey was investigated. Characteristics of the tidal channel drainage network plan form (order, bifurcation ratio, length, sinuosity) and cross section channel form (width:depth ratio, hydraulic geometry) are compared with data from other studies. Drainage patterns follow Horton’s Law of Stream Numbers and Law of Stream Lengths. Mitigation sites should be designed in accordance with these laws. The degree to which site-specific substrate, vegetation, and flow conditions constrain or facilitate the development of sinuous, meandering channel reaches should be estimated to provide information for the design of tidal channel geometries and dimensions that will accommodate predicted discharges. Drainage networks in created and restored wetlands should reflect the spatial distribution of width and depth properties (width:depth ratios, cross-sectional areas, longitudinal slopes, hydraulic geometry) found in similar natural systems. Reproducing these characteristics will lessen the practice of oversizing channels. Hydraulic geometry relationships can facilitate the sizing of channels at Atlantic coast salt marsh mitigation sites. Recommendations are given to promote the development of drainage networks that function like the coastal back-barrier Avalon/Stone Harbor marsh in New Jersey.