Atmospheric River Storm Flooding Influences Tidal Marsh Elevation Building Processes

Karen Thorne, Scott Jones, Chase Freeman, Kevin Buffington, Christopher Janousek, Glenn Guntenspergen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations

Abstract

Disturbances are a key component of ecological processes in coastal ecosystems. Investigating factors that affect tidal marsh accretion and elevation change is important, largely due to accelerating sea-level rise and the ecological and economic value of wetlands. Sediment accumulation rates, elevation change, and flooding were examined at five marshes along a riverine-tidal gradient in the northern San Francisco Bay-Delta, California, USA during an Atmospheric River storm event in 2017 using Surface Elevation Tables (SETs), feldspar marker horizons (MH), and continuous water-level sensors. Our results showed that localized marsh flooding increased during the storm event, but not evenly across sites. Marsh surface elevation increased the most at the tidal freshwater marsh site in response to the storms, with an average surface elevation gain of 45.6 ± 13.1 mm, and the least at a tidal saline marsh with an average surface elevation gain of 4.0 ± 1.2 mm. A marsh located on the large embayment did not exhibit an immediate response to the storm but had a surface elevation gain of 21.5 ± 13.7 mm 6 months after the storm. During the storm period, marsh distance to the bay was the strongest predictor of elevation change, followed by SET-MH elevations. Conversely, during non-storm periods, SET-MH elevation was a relatively strong predictor of elevation change. Atmospheric Rivers appear to be a major factor affecting short-term spatial and temporal variability in flooding and sedimentation rates in tidal marsh systems. Incorporating information about storms into monitoring could increase our understanding of how episodic storms can impact marshes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2021JG006592
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences
Volume127
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2022
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding was provided by U.S. Geological Survey Priority Ecosystem Science Program. The authors would like to thank the U.S. Geological Survey, Western Ecological Research Center & Eastern Ecological Science Center for support.?CJ would like to acknowledge support from NOAA Effects of Sea Level Rise Program. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) GRG acknowledges support from the Ecosystem Mission Area, Land Change Science (Climate R&D) Program. Site access was provided by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife Service (K. Taylor), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (D. Brubaker, M. Marriott, M. Amato, L. Terrazas), Rush Ranch NERR (M. Vasey, M. Ferner), Solano Land Trust, and East Bay Regional Parks. We would like to thank field staff including A. Kennedy, K. Backe, K. Mosher, A. Goodman, and V. Corbet. The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest. Any use of trade, product, or firm names in this publication is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.

Funding Information:
Funding was provided by U.S. Geological Survey Priority Ecosystem Science Program. The authors would like to thank the U.S. Geological Survey, Western Ecological Research Center & Eastern Ecological Science Center for support. CJ would like to acknowledge support from NOAA Effects of Sea Level Rise Program. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) GRG acknowledges support from the Ecosystem Mission Area, Land Change Science (Climate R&D) Program. Site access was provided by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife Service (K. Taylor), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (D. Brubaker, M. Marriott, M. Amato, L. Terrazas), Rush Ranch NERR (M. Vasey, M. Ferner), Solano Land Trust, and East Bay Regional Parks. We would like to thank field staff including A. Kennedy, K. Backe, K. Mosher, A. Goodman, and V. Corbet. The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest. Any use of trade, product, or firm names in this publication is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved. This article has been contributed to by U.S. Government employees and their work is in the public domain in the USA.

Keywords

  • climate change
  • ecosystem
  • geomorphic
  • sea-level rise
  • sediment
  • wetland

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