The sensitivity of a dike-marsh system to sea-level rise-a model-based exploration

Richard Marijnissen*, Matthijs Kok, Carolien Kroeze, Jantsje van Loon-Steensma

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
30 Downloads (Pure)


Integrating natural components in flood defence infrastructure can add resilience to sea-level rise. Natural foreshores can keep pace with sea-level rise by accumulating sediment and attenuate waves before reaching the adjacent flood defences. In this study we address how natural foreshores affect the future need for dike heightening. A simplified model of vertical marsh accretion was combined with a wave model and a probabilistic evaluation of dike failure by overtopping. The sensitivity of a marsh-dike system was evaluated in relation to a combination of processes: (1) sea-level rise, (2) changes in sediment concentration, (3) a retreat of the marsh edge, and (4) compaction of the marsh. Results indicate that foreshore processes considerably affect the need for dike heightening in the future. At a low sea-level rise rate, the marshes can accrete such that dike heightening is partially mitigated. But with sea-level rise accelerating, a threshold is reached where dike heightening needs to compensate for the loss of marshes, and for increasing water levels. The level of the threshold depends mostly on the delivery of sediment and degree of compaction on the marsh; with sufficient width of the marsh, lateral erosion only has a minor effect. The study shows how processes and practices that hamper or enhance marsh development today exacerbate or alleviate the challenge of flood protection posed by accelerated sea-level rise.

Original languageEnglish
Article number42
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Marine Science and Engineering
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Climate adaptation
  • Flood protection
  • Salt marsh


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