Contrasting biogeomorphic processes affecting salt-marsh development of the Mokbaai, Texel, The Netherlands

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Abstract

The growth and decline of salt marshes may be the result of various interacting biogeomorphic processes and external factors. We present a case study of the Mokbaai on the Wadden island of Texel, where we assess the relative importance and the interaction between the biogeomorphic processes and various disturbances. We analysed changes in vegetation composition in the salt marsh and sedimentation–erosion patterns of the adjoining intertidal flat over a 30-year period. Vegetation underwent regression in the lower parts of the marsh, i.e. the low marsh zone changed into pioneer zone. Comparing elevation measurements from 2013 and 1983 showed that the adjoining intertidal flats eroded 15–25 cm. Maintenance dredging of a nearby harbour might negatively impact the sediment balance indicating that the regression of the lower parts of the salt marsh is caused by a lack of sediment. Simultaneously, a change in the local hydrology led to vegetation succession into high and brackish salt marsh, increased organic sediment production and consequently cliff formation. The results from this case study show that, even in a relatively small salt marsh, changes in external factors may set in motion a series of biogeomorphic processes and feedbacks, leading to locally contrasting trends in spatiotemporal development. © 2016 The Authors. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

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