Dynamic interactions between coastal storms and salt marshes: A review

Geomorphology
By: , and 

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Abstract

This manuscript reviews the progresses made in the understanding of the dynamic interactions between coastal storms and salt marshes, including the dissipation of extreme water levels and wind waves across marsh surfaces, the geomorphic impact of storms on salt marshes, the preservation of hurricanes signals and deposits into the sedimentary records, and the importance of storms for the long term survival of salt marshes to sea level rise. A review of weaknesses, and strengths of coastal defences incorporating the use of salt marshes including natural, and hybrid infrastructures in comparison to standard built solutions is then presented.

Salt marshes are effective in dissipating wave energy, and storm surges, especially when the marsh is highly elevated, and continuous. This buffering action reduces for storms lasting more than one day. Storm surge attenuation rates range from 1.7 to 25 cm/km depending on marsh and storms characteristics. In terms of vegetation properties, the more flexible stems tend to flatten during powerful storms, and to dissipate less energy but they are also more resilient to structural damage, and their flattening helps to protect the marsh surface from erosion, while stiff plants tend to break, and could increase the turbulence level and the scour. From a morphological point of view, salt marshes are generally able to withstand violent storms without collapsing, and violent storms are responsible for only a small portion of the long term marsh erosion.

Our considerations highlight the necessity to focus on the indirect long term impact that large storms exerts on the whole marsh complex rather than on sole after-storm periods. The morphological consequences of storms, even if not dramatic, might in fact influence the response of the system to normal weather conditions during following inter-storm periods. For instance, storms can cause tidal flats deepening which in turn promotes wave energy propagation, and exerts a long term detrimental effect for marsh boundaries even during calm weather. On the other hand, when a violent storm causes substantial erosion but sediments are redistributed across nearby areas, the long term impact might not be as severe as if sediments were permanently lost from the system, and the salt marsh could easily recover to the initial state.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Dynamic interactions between coastal storms and salt marshes: A review
Series title Geomorphology
DOI 10.1016/j.geomorph.2017.11.001
Volume 301
Year Published 2018
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Contributing office(s) Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center
Description 16 p.
First page 92
Last page 107