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Applications and utility of the surface elevation table–marker horizon method for measuring wetland elevation and shallow soil subsidence-expansion: Discussion/reply to: Byrnes M., Britsch L., Berlinghoff J., Johnson R., and Khalil S. 2019. Recent subside

May 8, 2020

Byrnes et al. (Geo-Marine Letters 39:265–278, Byrnes et al. 2019) present subsidence data for Barataria Basin located south and west of New Orleans in coastal Louisiana to better inform wetland protection and restoration planning by the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority. They measured subsidence using geodetic GPS elevation surveys of rod benchmarks, similar to the rod benchmarks of the surface elevation table–marker horizon (SET-MH) method used to measure surface biophysical processes influencing elevation dynamics and shallow subsidence (i.e., subsidence occurring above the base of the rod) in coastal wetlands. Byrnes et al. (Geo-Marine Letters 39:265–278, Byrnes et al. 2019) argue that (1) SET-MH measures should not be included in subsidence measures because subsidence is a purely geologic process, separate from biophysical processes occurring in the active marsh zone, (2) shallow subsidence measured by the SET-MH method in deep Holocene sediments are not valid because of downdrag on the rod, and (3) high spatial variability of wetland surface processes precludes the ability to make meaningful estimates of subsidence using the SET-MH method. This reply paper presents an extensive summary of the peer-reviewed literature that refutes all three of these claims and demonstrates that it is not only reasonable but also essential to apply the SET-MH method to obtain a complete as possible assessment of surface elevation dynamics to inform coastal wetland restoration and management planning in Barataria Basin and other coastal wetlands worldwide.