|Biogeomorphic modeling to assess the resilience of tidal-marsh restoration to sea level rise and sediment supply
|Year of Publication
|Gourgue O, van Belzen J, Schwarz C, Vandenbruwaene W, Vanlede J, Belliard J-P, Fagherazzi S, Bouma TJ, van de Koppel J, Temmerman S
|Earth Surface Dynamics
There is an increasing demand for the creation and restoration of tidal marshes around the world, as they provide highly valued ecosystem services. Yet restored tidal marshes are strongly vulnerable to factors such as sea level rise and declining sediment supply. How fast the restored ecosystem develops, how resilient it is to sea level rise, and how this can be steered by restoration design are key questions that are typically challenging to assess due to the complex biogeomorphic feedback processes involved. In this paper, we apply a biogeomorphic model to a specific tidal-marsh restoration project planned by dike breaching. Our modeling approach integrates tidal hydrodynamics, sediment transport, and vegetation dynamics, accounting for relevant fine-scale flow–vegetation interactions (less than 1 m2) and their impact on vegetation and landform development at the landscape scale (several km2) and in the long term (several decades). Our model performance is positively evaluated against observations of vegetation and geomorphic development in adjacent tidal marshes. Model scenarios demonstrate that the restored tidal marsh can keep pace with realistic rates of sea level rise and that its resilience is more sensitive to the availability of suspended sediments than to the rate of sea level rise. We further demonstrate that restoration design options can steer marsh resilience, as they affect the rates and spatial patterns of biogeomorphic development. By varying the width of two dike breaches, which serve as tidal inlets to the restored marsh, we show that a larger difference in the width of the two inlets leads to higher biogeomorphic diversity in restored habitats. This study showcases that biogeomorphic modeling can support management choices in restoration design to optimize tidal-marsh development towards sustainable restoration goals.