Title

Does Vegetation Prevent Wave Erosion of Salt Marsh Edges?

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

6-23-2009

Department

Marine Science

Abstract

This study challenges the paradigm that salt marsh plants prevent lateral wave-induced erosion along wetland edges by binding soil with live roots and clarifies the role of vegetation in protecting the coast. In both laboratory flume studies and controlled field experiments, we show that common salt marsh plants do not significantly mitigate the total amount of erosion along a wetland edge. We found that the soil type is the primary variable that influences the lateral erosion rate and although plants do not directly reduce wetland edge erosion, they may do so indirectly via modification of soil parameters. We conclude that coastal vegetation is best-suited to modify and control sedimentary dynamics in response to gradual phenomena like sea-level rise or tidal forces, but is less well-suited to resist punctuated disturbances at the seaward margin of salt marshes, specifically breaking waves.

Publication Title

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

Volume

106

Issue

25

First Page

10109

Last Page

10113