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Coastal and Estuarine Studies




Salt-marsh vegetation and morphology: Basic physiology, modelling and remote sensing observations

S. Silvestri and M. Marani

The state and evolution of a tidal salt marsh are crucially dependent on the interplay between sediment input and transport, eustatism, hydrodynamic regimes and biotic factors (e.g. vegetation colonization). Biotic factors have a decisive influence on sediment deposition, resuspension and compaction but are, in turn, governed by numerous physical factors (e.g. soil salinity and oxygen availability). A model that can satisfactorily describe salt-marsh systems thus requires the explicit description of the coupled processes of their biotic, morphological and physico-chemical components. In order to achieve the objective of a predictive model of salt-marsh ecogeomorphic evolution, detailed knowledge of physiological factors affecting vegetation development, the relative importance of interactions, the feedbacks between biotic and abiotic processes, as well as field observations of the space/time characteristics are necessary. The first part of this Chapter summarizes current knowledge regarding the main factors affecting salt-marsh vegetation development, with the aim of providing a basis for the interpretation of observations and modelling. Mathematical models are then presented, which describe physical factors affecting vegetation development, possibly providing insights in the coupled evolution of vegetation and its environment. The Chapter then presents airborne and satellite remote sensing observations of salt-marsh vegetation. Remote sensing data are used to map the spatial distributions of marsh vegetation over large areas. Analyses of the vegetation maps obtained from remote sensing suggest that vegetation spatial distribution does not exhibit characteristic aggregation scales and allow the study of possible links between vegetation and relevant geomorphic characters. Vegetation patterns observed through remote sensing may thus constitute a benchmark for future quantitative models of salt marsh ecogeomorphology.

Citation: Silvestri, S., and M. Marani (2004), Salt-marsh vegetation and morphology: Basic physiology, modelling and remote sensing observations, in The Ecogeomorphology of Tidal Marshes, Coastal Estuarine Stud., vol. 59, edited by S. Fagherazzi, M. Marani, and L. K. Blum, pp. 5–25, AGU, Washington, D. C., doi:10.1029/CE059p0005.

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