Sea level rise is affecting reaches of coastal rivers by increasing water levels and propagating tides inland. The transition of river systems into tidal estuaries has been neglected in hydrogeomorphic studies. A better understanding of transitioning reaches is critical to understanding ecosystem dynamics, services, and developing predictive capabilities of change as sea levels rise. We hypothesized that river-floodplain morphology changes from fluvial to tidally dominated regimes, changing suspended sediment concentrations (SSC), sediment deposition, vegetation, and landforms. We tested this using lidar, satellite imagery, and SSC and conductivity measurements along two Coastal Plain rivers of Virginia, USA. Geomorphic channel and floodplain parameters indicated breakpoints into three regimes: fluvial, mixed, and tidal. Maximum channel width occurred with minimum floodplain widths in the mixed regime. Tidal freshwater forests had considerable elevational overlap with marshes but typically were 9.5 cm higher. SSC increased with shoal width through the mixed reaches, with maxima in the tidal reaches where estuarine influences increased. Channel erosion rates indicated that modern sediment loads and hydrology produce slow changes to channel planform and geomorphology that may not be apparent from visual comparisons. Our findings indicated that tidal floodplain forests and marshes in the mixed and tidal reaches are expected to convert to marshes or open water as sea levels rise as limited gradual sloping area exists between the active floodplain and terraces. Tidal floodplain surfaces along mixed hydrology reaches, inland of the estuarine turbidity maximum may be expected to convert to open water while inland sloping floodplains could support tidal wetland migration.
|Title||Hydrogeomorphic changes along mid-Atlantic coastal plain rivers transitioning from non-tidal to tidal: Implications for a rising sea level|
|Authors||Daniel Kroes, Gregory B. Noe, Cliff R. Hupp, Tom Doody, P.A. Bukaveckas|
|Publication Subtype||Journal Article|
|Series Title||Estuaries and Coasts|
|Record Source||USGS Publications Warehouse|
|USGS Organization||Lower Mississippi-Gulf Water Science Center; Florence Bascom Geoscience Center|