Nature Communications

Competing effects of vegetation density on sedimentation in deltaic marshes

Aug 8, 2022

Author(s): Yuan Xu, Heidi M. Nepf

Marsh vegetation, a definitive component of delta ecosystems, has a strong effect on sediment retention and land-building, controlling both how much sediment can be delivered to and how much is retained by the marsh. An understanding of how vegetation influences these processes would improve the restoration and management of marshes. We use a random displacement model to simulate sediment transport, deposition, and resuspension within a marsh. As vegetation density increases, velocity declines, which reduces sediment supply to the marsh, but also reduces resuspension, which enhances sediment retention within the marsh. The competing trends of supply and retention produce a nonlinear relationship between sedimentation and vegetation density, such that an intermediate density yields the maximum sedimentation. Two patterns of sedimentation spatial distribution emerge in the simulation, and the exponential distribution only occurs when resuspension is absent. With resuspension, sediment is delivered farther into the marsh and in a uniform distribution. The model was validated with field observations of sedimentation response to seasonal variation in vegetation density observed in a marsh within the Mississippi River Delta. More here.