Impacts of seagrass dynamics on the coupled long-term evolution of barrier-marsh-bay systems

Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences
By: , and 



Seagrass provides a wide range of economically and ecologically valuable ecosystem services, with shoreline erosion control often listed as a key service, but can also alter the sediment dynamics and waves within back-barrier bays. Here we incorporate seagrass dynamics into an existing barrier-marsh exploratory model, GEOMBEST++, to examine the coupled interactions of the back-barrier bay with both adjacent (marsh) and non-adjacent (barrier island) subsystems. While seagrass reduces marsh edge erosion rates and increases progradation rates in many of our 288 model simulations, seagrass surprisingly increases marsh edge erosion rates when sediment export from the back-barrier basin is negligible because the ability of seagrass to reduce the volume of marsh sediment eroded matters little for back-barrier basins in which all sediment is conserved. Our model simulations also suggest that adding seagrass to the bay subsystem leads to increased deposition in the bay, reduced sediment available to the marsh, and enhanced marsh edge erosion until the bay reaches a new, shallower equilibrium depth. In contrast, removing seagrass liberates previously-sequestered sediment that is then delivered to the marsh, leading to enhanced marsh progradation. Lastly, we find that seagrass reduces barrier island migration rates in the absence of back-barrier marsh by filling accommodation space in the bay. These model observations suggest that seagrass meadows operate as dynamic sources and sinks of sediment that can influence the evolution of coupled marsh and barrier island landforms in unanticipated ways.

Study Area

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Impacts of seagrass dynamics on the coupled long-term evolution of barrier-marsh-bay systems
Series title Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences
DOI 10.1029/2019JG005416
Volume 125
Issue 2
Year Published 2020
Language English
Publisher Wiley
Contributing office(s) Patuxent Wildlife Research Center
Description e2019JG005416, 19 p.
Country United States
State Virginia
Other Geospatial Delmarva Peninsula
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