Coastal marsh response to rising sea levels in the Grand Bay, MS estuary
Abstract:The Grand Bay estuary, situated along the border of Alabama and Mississippi, is a marine dominant estuary. Juncus roemerianus and Spartina alterniflora cover approximately 49% of the estuary (Eleuterius and Criss, 1991); However, this marsh system is prone to erosion more than other marsh systems in the state (Mississippi Department of Marine Resources 1999). Water level and wind-driven waves are critical factors that cause erosion in the Grand Bay estuary. Sediment transport induced by wave forces from the Gulf of Mexico and sea level rise force salt marshes to migrate landward (Schmid 2000). Understanding projected variations in vegetation can aid in productive restoration planning and coastal management decisions.
An integrated hydro-marsh model was developed to incorporate the dynamic interaction between tidal hydrodynamics and salt marsh system. This model projects salt marsh productivity by coupling a two-dimensional, depth-integrated ADvanced CIRCulation (ADCIRC) finite element model and a parametric marsh model (Morris et al., 2002). The model calculates marsh productivity as a function of mean low water (MLW), mean high water (MHW), and the elevation of the marsh platform. The coupling exchange process is divided into several time intervals that capture the rate of sea level rise, and update the elevation and bottom friction from the computed marsh productivity.
Accurate description of salt marsh platform is necessary for calculating accurate biomass results (Hagen et al. 2013). Lidar-derived digital elevation models (DEM) over-estimate marsh platform elevations, but can be corrected with Real Time Kinematic (RTK) survey data (Medeiros et al., 2015). Using RTK data, the salt marsh platform was updated and included in a high resolution hydrodynamic model.
Four projections of sea level rise (Parris et al., 2012) were used to project salt marsh productivity for the year 2100 for the Grand Bay, MS estuary. The results showed a higher productivity under low sea level rise scenario. However, lower productivity and an increase in inundated area or marsh migration was projected under the higher sea level rise scenarios. The maps and projections of hydrodynamics and marsh productivity can be used to improve restoration and management purposes for this estuary.