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Monitoring of wave, current, and sediment dynamics along the Fog Point Living Shoreline, Glenn Martin National Wildlife Refuge, Maryland

February 14, 2024

Living shorelines with salt marsh species, rock breakwaters, and sand nourishment were built along the coastal areas in the Glenn Martin National Wildlife Refuge, Maryland, in 2016 in response to Hurricane Sandy (2012). The Fog Point living shoreline at Glenn Martin National Wildlife Refuge was designed with the “headland - breakwater - embayment” pattern. Scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey, Northeastern University, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Louisiana State University studied wave, current, and sediment dynamics to assess the effectiveness of the Fog Point living shoreline structures in terms of wave attenuation and erosion reduction. Wave gages, current meters, sediment traps, sediment tiles, and lateral erosion pins were deployed along the Fog Point shoreline during February 10–14, 2020. Because of COVID-19 pandemic travel restrictions, sensors were not retrieved until August 25, 2021, which was 18 months after field deployment, resulting in tremendous loss or damage of sensors and sediment measurements.

Monitoring data indicated that wave heights were substantially reduced at locations behind the breakwater (headland) compared to the wave heights in the offshore location, but not at the location in the control area (the embayment). Current patterns and current velocities at the location behind the breakwater were complex and changed dramatically compared to the current patterns and current velocities offshore. Sediments were blocked by the breakwater most of the time except during periods of storms with wave heights larger than 0.9 meter, when waves overtopped the breakwater and brought sediments to the tidal flat and salt marshes behind the breakwater. Behind the breakwater, both sediment deposition and erosion were observed during the 18 months of monitoring. Continued low elevation marsh edge erosion from wave undercutting along the embayment was observed, especially at the existing wave-cut gullies.

Monitoring results indicate that the “breakwater + marsh planting” structure along the Fog Point shoreline has limited shoreline protection capacity. Marsh edge erosion behind the breakwater was likely caused by the limited sediment supply from marine sources for transport and delivery, as well as the effects of circulation and current velocity on the settling and deposition of suspended sediments from eroded marshes. Marsh edge erosion continued in the embayment or control area where no shoreline restoration structures were implemented. Long-term (decadal scale) monitoring and adaptive management of living shoreline structures could help to assess the effectiveness of wave attenuation for reducing shoreline erosion and enhancing vegetation growth for trapping sediments and the effectiveness of marsh surface elevation growth for keeping pace with sea level rise.

Publication Year 2024
Title Monitoring of wave, current, and sediment dynamics along the Fog Point Living Shoreline, Glenn Martin National Wildlife Refuge, Maryland
DOI 10.3133/ofr20241004
Authors H. Wang, Q. Chen, W.D. Capurso, N. Wang, L.M. Niemoczynski, M. Whitbeck, L. Zhu, G.A. Snedden, C.A. Wilson, M.S. Brownley
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Open-File Report
Series Number 2024-1004
Index ID ofr20241004
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Maryland Water Science Center; New Jersey Water Science Center; New York Water Science Center; Wetland and Aquatic Research Center