A global analysis of the seaward salt marsh extent: the importance of tidal range

Balke, T. , Stock, M., Jensen, K., Bouma, T. J. and Kleyer, M. (2016) A global analysis of the seaward salt marsh extent: the importance of tidal range. Water Resources Research, 52(5), pp. 3775-3786. (doi:10.1002/2015WR018318)

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Abstract

Despite the growing interest in ecosystem services provided by intertidal wetlands, we lack sufficient understanding of the processes that determine the seaward extent of salt marsh vegetation on tidal flats. With the present study, we aim to establish a globally valid demarcation between tidal flats and salt marsh vegetation in relation to tidal range. By comparing results from a regional GIS study with a global literature search on the salt marsh- tidal flat border, we are able to define the global critical elevation, above which salt marsh plants can grow in the intertidal zone. Moreover, we calculate inundation characteristics from global tide gauge records to determine inundation duration and frequency at this predicted salt marsh - tidal flat border depending on tidal range. Our study shows that the height difference between the lowest elevation of salt-marsh pioneer vegetation and mean high water increases logarithmically with tidal range when including macrotidal salt marshes. Hence, the potentially vegetated section of the tidal frame below mean high water does not proportionally increase with tidal range. The data analysis suggests that inundation frequency rather than duration defines the global lower elevational limit of vascular salt marsh plants on tidal flats. This is critical information to better estimate sea level rise and coastal change effects on lateral marsh development.

Item Type:Articles
Additional Information:The research was funded by the Lower Saxony Ministry for Science and Culture in Germany through the project BEFmate (Biodiversity – Ecosystem Functioning across marine and terrestrial ecosystems).
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Balke, Dr Thorsten
Authors: Balke, T., Stock, M., Jensen, K., Bouma, T. J., and Kleyer, M.
College/School:College of Science and Engineering > School of Geographical and Earth Sciences
Journal Name:Water Resources Research
Publisher:American Geophysical Union
ISSN:0043-1397
ISSN (Online):1944-7973
Published Online:25 April 2016
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2016 American Geophysical Union
First Published:First published in Water Resources Research 52(5): 3775-3786
Publisher Policy:Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher

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