COASTAL AND ESTUARINE STUDIES, VOL. 59, PP. 165-188, 2004
Flow, sedimentation, and biomass production on a vegetated salt marsh in South Carolina: Toward a predictive model of marsh morphologic and ecologic evolution
A 1-D model for exploring the interaction between hydrodynamics, sedimentation, and plant community evolution on a salt marsh
populated by Spartina alterniflora is developed. In general macrophyte characteristics are determined by a wide range of processes; here, based on field studies
at North Inlet estuary, South Carolina, the biomass of the S. alterniflora on the marsh platform is simply related to the time of submergence under tidally induced flows. Additionally, field data
collected at North Inlet are used to relate biomass to plant area per unit volume, stem diameter, and an empirical drag coefficient.
Sedimentation is also related to biomass, through either organogenic deposition or trapping of suspended sediment particles,
whereas tidally induced flows over marsh platforms are affected by S. alterniflora through drag forces. The morphologic evolution of simulated marshes is explored by varying the sedimentation process and
the rate of sea level rise. Different sedimentation processes result in marshes with different morphologies. An organogenic
marsh is predicted to evolve under a regime of steady sea level rise into a platform with a relatively flat surface, whereas
a marsh developed primarily through a trapping mechanism is predicted to have a surface that slopes gently away from the salt
marsh creek. Marshes that accrete through sediment trapping adjust to changes in sea level more rapidly than marshes that
accrete through organogenic deposition. Further research needs are discussed.
Citation: Mudd, S. M.,