Vegetation-Hydrodynamic Interactions and the Stability of Channel Inlets of Tidal Freshwater Wetlands, Chesapeake Bay System
Prestegaard, Karen L
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To maintain elevation, deposition of mineral and organic sediment in tidal freshwater wetlands (TFWs) must outweigh losses due to sea-level rise, erosion, decomposition, and compaction. Sediment loads into tidal marshes are controlled by inlet size and sediment supply, but interactions among vegetation, hydraulics, and geomorphology affect sediment retention. This study focused on these interactions in TFW inlets partially covered by aquatic vegetation (N.luteum, Z.aquatica, and H.verticullata). Measurements of hydraulic parameters and geomorphic change were correlated with observations of spatial and morphological characteristics for each vegetation type. The aquatic plants grew in significantly different water depths and well-defined platforms formed in areas occupied by emergent vegetation where effective shear stress is lowest. Net annual accretion data indicate an inverse relationship between maximum inlet depth and accretion rate. These results suggest that initial vegetation colonization modifies channel inlet morphology; both vegetation and morphology generate the shear stress distributions, which maintain channel form.