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Bio-geomorphic effects on tidal channel evolution: impact of vegetation establishment and tidal prism change
Vandenbruwaene, W.; Meire, P.; Temmerman, S.; Bouma, T.J. (2013). Bio-geomorphic effects on tidal channel evolution: impact of vegetation establishment and tidal prism change. Earth Surf. Process. Landforms 38(2): 122-132. https://dx.doi.org/10.1002/esp.3265
In: Earth Surface Processes and Landforms: the Journal of the British Geomorphological Research Group. John Wiley/Wiley: Chichester, Sussex; New York. ISSN 0197-9337, more
Peer reviewed article  

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Keyword
    Brackish water
Author keywords
    Tidal channel evolution; bio-geomorphology; vegetation; tidal prism; tidal marshes; tidal flats

Authors  Top 
  • Vandenbruwaene, W., more
  • Meire, P., more
  • Temmerman, S., more
  • Bouma, T.J., more

Abstract
    The long-term (10–100 years) evolution of tidal channels is generally considered to interact with the bio-geomorphic evolution of the surrounding intertidal platform. Here we studied how the geometric properties of tidal channels (channel drainage density and channel width) change as (1) vegetation establishes on an initially bare intertidal platform and (2) sediment accretion on the intertidal platform leads to a reduction in the tidal prism (i.e. water volume that during a tidal cycle floods to and drains back from the intertidal platform). Based on a time series of aerial photographs and digital elevation models, we derived the channel geometric properties at different time steps during the evolution from an initially low-elevated bare tidal flat towards a high-elevated vegetated marsh. We found that vegetation establishment causes a marked increase in channel drainage density. This is explained as the friction exerted by patches of pioneer vegetation concentrates the flow in between the vegetation patches and promotes there the erosion of channels. Once vegetation has established, continued sediment accretion and tidal prism reduction do not result in significant further changes in channel drainage density and in channel widths. We hypothesize that this is explained by a partitioning of the tidal flow between concentrated channel flow, as long as the vegetation is not submerged, and more homogeneous sheet flow as the vegetation is deeply submerged. Hence, a reduction of the tidal prism due to sediment accretion on the intertidal platform, reduces especially the volume of sheet flow (which does not affect channel geometry), while the concentrated channel flow (i.e. the landscape forming volume of water) is not much affected by the tidal prism reduction.

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