Entrainment of sediment by flowing water affects topography, habitat suitability, and nutrient cycling in vegetated floodplains and wetlands, impacting ecosystem evolution and the success of restoration projects. Nonetheless, restoration managers lack simple decision-support tools for predicting shear stresses and sediment redistribution potential in different vegetation communities. Using a field-validated numerical model, we developed state-space diagrams that provide these predictions over a range of water-surface slopes, depths, and associated velocities in Everglades ridge and slough vegetation communities. Diminished bed shear stresses and a consequent decrease in bed sediment redistribution are hypothesized causes of a recent reduction in the topographic and vegetation heterogeneity of this ecosystem. Results confirmed the inability of present-day flows to entrain bed sediment. Further, our diagrams showed bed shear stresses to be highly sensitive to emergent vegetation density and water-surface slope but less sensitive to water depth and periphyton or floating vegetation abundance. These findings suggested that instituting a pulsing flow regime could be the most effective means to restore sediment redistribution to the Everglades. However, pulsing flows will not be sufficient to erode sediment from sloughs with abundant spikerush, unless spikerush density first decreases by natural or managed processes. Our methods provide a novel tool for identifying restoration parameters and performance measures in many types of vegetated aquatic environments where sediment erosion and deposition are involved.
Additional publication details
Predicting bed shear stress and its role in sediment dynamics and restoration potential of the Everglades and other vegetated flow systems