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Wave attenuation across a tidal marsh in San Francisco Bay

March 30, 2018

Wave attenuation is a central process in the mechanics of a healthy salt marsh. Understanding how wave attenuation varies with vegetation and hydrodynamic conditions informs models of other marsh processes that are a function of wave energy (e.g. sediment transport) and allows for the incorporation of marshes into coastal protection plans. Here, we examine the evolution of wave height across a tidal salt marsh in San Francisco Bay. Instruments were deployed along a cross-shore transect, starting on the mudflat and crossing through zones dominated by Spartina foliosa and Salicornia pacifica. This dataset is the first to quantify wave attenuation for these vegetation species, which are abundant in the intertidal zone of California estuaries. Measurements were collected in the summer and winter to assess seasonal variation in wave attenuation. Calculated drag coefficients of S. foliosa and S. pacifica were similar, indicating equal amounts of vegetation would lead to similar energy dissipation; however, S. pacifica has much greater biomass close to the bed (<20 cm) and retains biomass throughout the year, and therefore, it causes more total attenuation. S. foliosa dies back in the winter, and waves often grow across this section of the marsh. For both vegetation types, attenuation was greatest for low water depths, when the vegetation was emergent. For both seasons, attenuation rates across S. pacifica were the highest and were greater than published attenuation rates across similar (Spartina alterniflora) salt marshes for the comparable depths. These results can inform designs for marsh restorations and management plans in San Francisco Bay and other estuaries containing these species.

Publication Year 2018
Title Wave attenuation across a tidal marsh in San Francisco Bay
DOI 10.1016/j.coastaleng.2018.02.001
Authors Madeline R. Foster-Martinez, Jessica R. Lacy, Matthew C. Ferner, Evan A. Variano
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Coastal Engineering
Index ID 70196072
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center