Marsh Edge Erosion Effects in Coupled Barrier Island-Marsh Systems

Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Rebecca Lauzon1, Laura J. Moore2, A. Brad Murray1, David Walters3, Sergio Fagherazzi4 and Giulio Mariotti5, (1)Duke University, Nicholas School of Environment, Durham, NC, United States, (2)UNC-Geological Sciences, Chapel Hill, NC, United States, (3)Virginia Institute of Marine Science, Gloucester Point, VA, United States, (4)Boston University, Boston, MA, United States, (5)Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, United States
While until recently marsh loss was largely thought to be due to an inability for vertical accretion rates to match rates of sea level rise, marsh edge erosion by wind waves is now thought to be the leading cause of marsh loss worldwide. To better understand the response of coastal ecosystems to future changes in sea level and storm intensity, we further develop the coupled barrier-island marsh evolution model GEOMBEST+. We use the relationship between wave height (and therefore energy) and fetch and wind speed to add marsh edge erosion to the model, as well as to provide a more physical formulation for bay bottom erosion. Previous research addressing marshes in isolation from barrier islands (Mariotti and Fagherazzi, 2013) suggests that the existence of a backbarrier marsh is an unstable state, tending to either grow laterally to completely fill an adjacent basin or to erode away completely. Previous results of GEOMBEST+ experiments (Walters et al., in review) suggest that couplings with an adjacent barrier island can add an additional alternate long-lasting state: a narrow marsh supported by sediment influx from overwash. Here we present the results of new GEOMBEST+ model experiments that address how the addition of lateral erosion by wind waves affects the existence and characteristics of the narrow marsh state. Specifically, we seek to address how the frequency and characteristic time and space scales of the narrow march state are affected. Model experiments also explore more broadly the importance of wind wave effects in understanding the coupled dynamics of marsh-barrier island systems.