Field observations of wind waves in Upper Delaware Bay with living shorelines

Estuaries and Coasts
By: , and 



Constructed oyster reefs (CORs) provide shore protections and habitats for fish and shellfish communities via wave energy attenuation. However, the processes and mechanism of CORs on wave attenuation remain unclear, thus limiting the effective assessment of CORs for shoreline protection. This paper presents results of a field investigation on wave characteristics and wave spectral variations along a shoreline with CORs in an estuary with a large tidal range as well as large wind waves and swell energy. Six pressure transducers were deployed from January 31 to April 2, 2018, in Gandy’s Beach, New Jersey, in upper Delaware Bay. CORs were constructed at the study site in 2016 as living shoreline structures after Hurricane Sandy. The data collected from the study site exhibits the wave variations and spectral characteristics over the span of 2 months, including four winter storms (i.e., nor’easters). The spatial variations of wave heights measured on both sides of CORs show a strong dependence on the ratio between the freeboard of CORs and the offshore wave heights. Due to the large tidal range (> 2 m), the crests of CORs remain submerged over 85% of the time. The submerged CORs only provide partial attenuation of wave energy. The wave environment in the estuary is complex, especially during nor’easters. For instance, winds with rapid changing fetches could lead to bi-modal wind seas. Due to the complex wave spectra, the bulk wave heights such as the significant wave heights cannot be adopted to adequately reveal the capacity of CORs to attenuate wave energy. Spectral analysis is conducted to investigate the spatial and temporal variations of wave energy in targeted frequency bins. The spectral analysis results reveal the energy transfer from the primary waves to the high harmonics after waves propagate over the submerged CORs. Moreover, it is found that swell energy originated from the Atlantic Ocean can penetrate CORs without any dampening even when CORs are emergent. This study could help resource managers for in-depth evaluation of living shoreline effectiveness and improvement of living shoreline structures such as CORs.

Study Area

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Field observations of wind waves in Upper Delaware Bay with living shorelines
Series title Estuaries and Coasts
DOI 10.1007/s12237-019-00670-7
Volume 43
Year Published 2020
Language English
Publisher Springer
Contributing office(s) New Jersey Water Science Center, New York Water Science Center, Wetland and Aquatic Research Center
Description 17 p.
First page 739
Last page 755
Country United States
State Delaware, New Jersey
Other Geospatial Delaware Bay
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