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Broad timescale forcing and geomorphic mediation of tidal marsh flow and temperature dynamics

January 1, 2013

Tidal marsh functions are driven by interactions between tides, landscape morphology, and emergent vegetation. Less often considered are the diurnal pattern of tide extremes and seasonal variation of solar insolation in the mix of tidal marsh driver interactions. This work demonstrates how high-frequency hydroperiod and water temperature variability emerges from disparate timescale interactions between tidal marsh morphology, tidal harmonics, and meteorology in the San Francisco Estuary. We compare the tidal and residual flow and temperature response of neighboring tidal sloughs, one possessing natural tidal marsh morphology, and one that is modified for water control. We show that the natural tidal marsh is tuned to lunar phase and produces tidal and fortnight water temperature variability through interacting tide, meteorology, and geomorphic linkages. In contrast, temperature variability is dampened in the modified slough where overbank marsh plain connection is severed by levees. Despite geomorphic differences, a key finding is that both sloughs are heat sinks in summer by latent heat flux-driven residual upstream water advection and sensible and long-wave heat transfer. The precession of a 335-year tidal harmonic assures that these dynamics will shift in the future. Water temperature regulation appears to be a key function of natural tidal sloughs that depends critically on geomorphic mediation. We investigate approaches to untangling the relative influence of sun versus tide on residual water and temperature transport as a function of system morphology. The findings of this study likely have ecological consequences and suggest physical process metrics for tidal marsh restoration performance.

Publication Year 2013
Title Broad timescale forcing and geomorphic mediation of tidal marsh flow and temperature dynamics
DOI 10.1007/s12237-013-9639-7
Authors Christopher Enwright, Steven Culberson, Jon R. Burau
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Estuaries and Coasts
Index ID 70190993
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization California Water Science Center