Salt marsh morphodynamics: An investigation of tidal flows and marsh channel equilibrium
Lawrence, D. S. L., Allen, J. R. L. and Havelock, G. M. (2004) Salt marsh morphodynamics: An investigation of tidal flows and marsh channel equilibrium. Journal of Coastal Research, 20 (1). pp. 301-316. ISSN 0749-0208
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Although numerous field studies have evaluated flow and transport processes in salt marsh channels, the overall role of channels in delivering and removing material from salt marsh platforms is still poorly characterised. In this paper, we consider this issue based on a numerical hydrodynamic model for a prototype marsh system and on a field survey of the cross-sectional geometry of a marsh channel network. Results of the numerical simulations indicate that the channel transfers approximately three times the volume of water that would be estimated from mass balance considerations alone. Marsh platform roughness exerts a significant influence on the partitioning of discharge between the channel and the marsh platform edge, alters flow patterns on the marsh platform due to its effects on channel-to-platform transfer and also controls the timing of peak discharge relative to marsh-edge overtopping. Although peak channel discharges and velocities are associated with the flood tide and marsh inundation, a larger volume of water is transferred by the channel during ebb flows, a portion of which transfer takes place after the tidal height is below the marsh platform. Detailed surveys of the marsh channels crossing a series of transects at Upper Stiffkey Marsh, north Norfolk, England, show that the total channel cross-sectional area increases linearly with catchment area in the inner part of the marsh, which is consistent with the increase in shoreward tidal prism removed by the channels. Toward the marsh edge, however, a deficit in the total cross-sectional area develops, suggesting that discharge partitioning between the marsh channels and the marsh platform edge may also be expressed in the morphology of marsh channel systems.