Tidal marshes play an important role in climate change mitigation through natural coastal protection. The effectiveness of the natural coastal defense by tidal marshes is closely related to their channel network which is in turn greatly influenced by their vegetation cover and shape. Previous research suggests a dual effect of vegetation on marsh topography; stabilizing sediment on the one hand versus promoting erosion and channel incision on the other hand. This study links these effects to different vegetation species, Salicornia procumbens, Spartina anglica, and Puccinellia maritima (further referred to as Salicornia, Spartina, and Puccinellia), by means of a coupled bio-hydromorphodynamic modeling study. Single species, species-assemblages, and species shifts were studied, incorporating both species-specific physical plant properties and spatiotemporal growth strategies. The results indicate the influence of vegetation on the marsh topography to be highly species-dependent, but also of a very complex nature. Both the presence of Spartina and Puccinellia resulted in significant channel development, whereas Salicornia did not induce topographic change. The combination of several species promoted or reduced channel development depending on the included species. Species-shifts linked with climatic changes resulted in increased erosion of the existing channel network potentially reducing the protective capacity of the marsh.
- salt marsh
- tidal channels