Numerical and field investigations unveil the response of salt marshes to storm sediment input
Salt marshes are ecosystems with significant economic and environmental value. With accelerating rate in sea-level rise, it is not clear whether salt marshes will be able to retain their resilience. Field and numerical investigations have shown that storms play a significant role in marsh accretion and that they might be crucial to salt marsh survival to sea-level rise. Here we present the results from two studies (Pannozzo et al., 2021a,b; Pannozzo et al., 2022) that used numerical and field investigations to quantify the impact of storm surges on the sediment budget of salt marshes within different sea-level scenarios and to investigate how sediment transport pathways determine marsh response to storm sediment input. The Ribble Estuary, North-West England, was used as a test case. The hydrodynamic model Delft3D was used to simulate the estuary morpho-dynamics under selected storm surge and sea-level scenarios. In addition, sediment samples collected with a monthly frequency from different areas of the marsh were analysed with sediments collected from possible sources to integrate field observations with the numerical investigation of sediment transport pathways during stormy and non-stormy conditions. Results showed that, although sea-level rise threatens the estuary and marsh stability by promoting ebb dominance and triggering a net export of sediment, storm surges promote flood dominance and trigger a net import of sediment, increasing the resilience of the estuary and salt marsh to sea-level rise, with the highest surges having the potential to offset sea-level effects on sediment transport and sediment budget of the system. However, although storm sediment input resulted to be significant for the accretion of the marsh platform and particularly for the marsh interior, data showed that storms mainly remobilise sediments already present in the intertidal system and only to a minor extent transport new sediment from external sources.
Pannozzo N. et al., 2021. Salt marsh resilience to sea-level rise and increased storm intensity. Geomorphology, 389 (4): 107825.
Pannozzo N. et al., 2021. Dataset of results from numerical simulations of increased storm intensity in an estuarine salt marsh system. Data in Brief, 38 (6): 107336.
Pannozzo N. et al., 2022. Sediment transport pathways determine the sensitivity of salt marshes to storm sediment input. In preparation.