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Identifying and constraining marsh-type transitions in response to increasing erosion over the past century

January 22, 2024

Marsh environments, characterized by their flora and fauna, change laterally in response to shoreline erosion, water levels and inundation, and anthropogenic activities. The Grand Bay coastal system (USA) has undergone multiple large-scale geomorphic and hydrologic changes resulting in altered sediment supply, depositional patterns, and degraded barrier islands, leaving wetland salt marshes vulnerable to increased wave activity. Two shore-perpendicular transect sites, one along a low-activity shoreline and the other in a high activity area of the same bay-marsh complex, were sampled to investigate how the marshes within 50 m of the modern shoreline have responded to different levels of increased wave activity over the past century. Surface sediments graded finer and more organic with increased distance from the shoreline while cores generally exhibited a coarsening upwards grain-size trend; all cores contained multiple large sedimentological shifts. 210Pb-based mass accumulation rates over the last two decades were greater than the long-term (centurial) average at each site with the fastest accumulation rates of 7.81 ± 1.58 and 7.79 ± 1.63 kg/m2/year at the sites nearest the shoreline. A shoreline change analysis of three time-slices (1848–2017, 1957–2017, 2016–2017) shows increased erosion at both sites since 1848 with modern rates of −0.95 and −0.88 m/year. Downcore sedimentology, mass accumulation rates, and shoreline change rates paired with foraminiferal biofacies and identification of local estuarine indicator species, Paratrochammina simplissima, aided in identifying paleo marsh types, their relative proximity to the shoreline, and sediment provenance. The high-energy marsh site transitioned from middle marsh to low marsh in the 1960s, and the low-energy marsh site transitioned later, at the end of the twentieth and early twenty-first century, due to its more protected location. Marsh type transition corresponds chronologically with the coarsening upwards grain-size trend observed and the degradation of Grand Batture Island; since its submergence, signatures of multiple storm event have been preserved downcore.

Publication Year 2024
Title Identifying and constraining marsh-type transitions in response to increasing erosion over the past century
DOI 10.1007/s12237-023-01320-9
Authors Alisha M. Ellis, Christopher G. Smith, Kathryn Smith, Jessica A. Jacobs
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Estuaries and Coasts
Index ID 70251093
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center