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Numerical models of salt marsh evolution: ecological, geomorphic, and climatic factors

Reviews of Geophysics

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Abstract

Salt marshes are delicate landforms at the boundary between the sea and land. These ecosystems support a diverse biota that modifies the erosive characteristics of the substrate and mediates sediment transport processes. Here we present a broad overview of recent numerical models that quantify the formation and evolution of salt marshes under different physical and ecological drivers. In particular, we focus on the coupling between geomorphological and ecological processes and on how these feedbacks are included in predictive models of landform evolution. We describe in detail models that simulate fluxes of water, organic matter, and sediments in salt marshes. The interplay between biological and morphological processes often produces a distinct scarp between salt marshes and tidal flats. Numerical models can capture the dynamics of this boundary and the progradation or regression of the marsh in time. Tidal channels are also key features of the marsh landscape, flooding and draining the marsh platform and providing a source of sediments and nutrients to the marsh ecosystem. In recent years, several numerical models have been developed to describe the morphogenesis and long-term dynamics of salt marsh channels. Finally, salt marshes are highly sensitive to the effects of long-term climatic change. We therefore discuss in detail how numerical models have been used to determine salt marsh survival under different scenarios of sea level rise.

Additional Publication Details

Publication type:
Article
Publication Subtype:
Journal Article
Title:
Numerical models of salt marsh evolution: ecological, geomorphic, and climatic factors
Series title:
Reviews of Geophysics
Volume
50
Issue:
1
Year Published:
2012
Language:
English
Publisher:
American Geophysical Union
Publisher location:
Washington, D.C.
Contributing office(s):
Patuxent Wildlife Research Center
Description:
28 p.
Larger Work Type:
Article
Larger Work Subtype:
Journal Article
First page:
RG1002
Last page:
RG1002
Number of Pages:
28