On the Lateral Retreat of Salt Marshes: Field Monitoring in the Venice Lagoon (Italy)

Tuesday, 16 December 2014: 9:30 AM
Luca Solari1, Michele Bendoni1, Riccardo Mel2, Hocine Oumeraci3, Simona Francalanci4 and Stefano Lanzoni2, (1)University of Florence, Florence, Italy, (2)University of Padua, Padua, Italy, (3)Technical University of Braunschweig, Braunschweig, Germany, (4)CERAFRI, Retignano di Stazzema (LU), Italy
Salt marshes are geomorphic structures located in ecotone environments such as lagoon and estuaries, providing lot of ecosystem services to local population. In the last decades they are disappearing due to several factors such as sea level rise, subsidence and edge erosion due to surface waves. The latter is likely the chief mechanism modeling marsh boundaries and leading to the loss of wide marsh areas. In the case of the Venice Lagoon, from the beginning of the last century, the whole salt marsh surface has more than halved and trends indicate that the salt marshes might completely disappear over the next 50 years.

Here, we present a field monitoring activity that we are currently carrying out on a retreating salt marsh located in the north part of the Lagoon of Venice (Italy). The marsh is subject to North-East (Bora) wind. Marsh area loss during the last decades has been documented through the comparison of georeferenced aerial photographs showing a retreat rate of the order of 1 m/year.

Field measurements started by the end of November 2013 and consist of: salt marsh bank geometry at different cross-sections and wave climate in the lagoon about 30 m in front of the salt marsh. Erosion data are obtained by means of erosion pins located horizontally on the marsh scarp; at higher banks (about 0.9 m), two pins are located along the same vertical direction, for lower banks (about 0.4m), only one pin is employed. Significant wave height has been measured during three storm surges by means of pressure transducers (Pts).

The measured wave climate in front of the bank was then put into relationship with the offshore wave climate estimated using wind data (intensity and direction) and bathymetric data. Wind intensity and direction is measured hourly by several measurement stations located in the Lagoon of Venice. In this way, it is possible to extrapolate wave climate hourly at the monitored marsh and calculate the wave power that acted on the bank in a given time interval.

Field survey revealed that the main retreating mechanisms are particle by particle erosion alternated to cantilever failures. Preliminary results show a linear relationship between erosion rate and wave energy flux and the existence of a critical threshold for the onset of erosion.