Autocyclic erosion in tidal marshes
Chauhan, P. P. S. (2009) Autocyclic erosion in tidal marshes. Geomorphology, 110 (3-4). pp. 45-57. ISSN 0169-555X
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To link to this article DOI: 10.1016/j.geomorph.2009.03.016
A common mode whereby destruction of coastal lowlands occurs is frontal erosion. The edge cliffing, nonetheless, is also an inherent aspect of salt marsh development in many northwest European tidal marshes. Quite a few geomorphologists in the earlier half of the past century recognized such edge erosion as a definite repetitive stage within an autocyclic mode of marsh growth. A shift in research priorities during the past decades (primarily because of coastal management concerns, however) has resulted in an enhanced focus on sediment-flux measurement campaigns on salt marshes. This, somewhat "object-oriented" strategy hindered any further development of the once-established autocyclic growth concept, which virtually has gone into oblivion in recent times. This work makes an attempt to resurrect the notion of autocyclicity by employing its premises to address edge erosion in tidal marshes. Through a review of intertidal morphosedimentology the underlying framework for autocyclicity is envisaged. The phenomenon is demonstrated in the Holocene salt marsh plain of Moricambe basin in NW England that displays several distinct phases of marsh retreat in the form of abandoned clifflets. The suite of abandoned shorelines and terraces has been identified in detailed field mapping that followed analysis of topographic maps and aerial photographs. Vertical trends in marsh plain sediments are recorded in trenches for signs of past marsh front movements. The characteristic sea level history of the area offers an opportunity to differentiate the morphodynamic variability induced in the autocyclic growth of the marsh plain in scenarios of rising and falling sea level and the accompanied change in sediment budget. The ideas gathered are incorporated to construct a conceptual model that links temporal extent of marsh erosion to inner tidal flat sediment budget and sea level tendency. The review leads to recognition of the necessity of adopting an holistic approach in the morphodynamic investigations where marshes should be treated as a component within the "marsh-mudflat system" as each element apparently modulates evolution of the other, with an eventual linkage to subtidal channels. (C) 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.