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Groundwater dynamics in a restored tidal marsh are limited by historical soil compaction
Van Putte, N.; Temmerman, S.; Verreydt, G.; Seuntjens, P.; Maris, T.; Heyndrickx, M.; Boone, M.; Joris, I.; Meire, P. (2020). Groundwater dynamics in a restored tidal marsh are limited by historical soil compaction. Est., Coast. and Shelf Sci. 244: 106101.
In: Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science. Academic Press: London; New York. ISSN 0272-7714; e-ISSN 1096-0015, more
Peer reviewed article  

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Author keywords
    Marsh restoration; Groundwater flow; Macropores; Scheldt estuary; Controlled reduced tide (CRT)

Authors  Top 
  • Van Putte, N., more
  • Temmerman, S., more
  • Verreydt, G., more
  • Seuntjens, P., more
  • Maris, T., more
  • Heyndrickx, M.

    In places where tidal marshes were formerly embanked for agricultural land use, these marshes are nowadays increasingly restored with the aim to regain important ecosystem services. However, there is growing evidence that restored tidal marshes and their services develop slowly and differ from natural tidal marshes in many aspects. Here we focus on groundwater dynamics, because these affect several key ecosystem functions and services, such as nutrient cycling and vegetation development. We hypothesize that groundwater dynamics in restored tidal marshes are reduced as compared to natural marshes because of the difference in soil structure. In the macro-tidal Schelde estuary (Belgium), in both a natural and a restored (since 2006) freshwater tidal marsh, we measured depth profiles of soil properties (grain size distribution, LOI (loss on ignition), moisture content and bulk density) and temporal dynamics of groundwater levels along a transect with increasing distance from a tidal creek. X-ray micro CT-scanning was used to quantify soil macroporosity. The restored marsh has a two-layered soil stratigraphy with a topsoil of freshly accreted sediment (ranging in depth between 10 and 60 cm, deposited since 2006) and a subsoil of compact relict agricultural soil. We found that both the soil in the natural marsh and the topsoil of the restored marsh consist of loosely packed sediment rich in macropores and organic matter, whereas the relict agricultural soil in the restored marsh is densely packed and has few macropores. Our results show that groundwater level fluctuations in the restored marsh are restricted to the top layer of newly deposited sediment (i.e. on average 0.08 m depth). Groundwater level fluctuations in the natural marsh occur over a larger depth of the soil profile (i.e. on average 0.28 m depth). As a consequence, the reduced groundwater dynamics in restored tidal marshes are expected to alter the subsurface fluxes of water and nutrients, the source-sink function and the development of marsh vegetation.

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