Linking management planning for coastal wetlands to potential future wave attenuation under a range of relative sea-level rise scenarios

Commagere Hijuelos, A. et al., 2019. PloS one

Original research
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Understanding changes in wave attenuation by emergent vegetation as wetlands degrade or accrete over time is crucial for incorporation of wetlands into holistic coastal risk management. Linked SLAMM and XBeach models were used to investigate potential future changes in wave attenuation over a 50-year period in a degrading, subtropical wetland and a prograding, temperate wetland. These contrasting systems also have differing management contexts and were contrasted to demonstrate how the linked models can provide management-relevant insights. Morphological development of wetlands for different scenarios of sea-level rise and accretion was simulated with SLAMM and then coupled with different vegetation characteristics to predict the influence on future wave attenuation using XBeach. The geomorphological context, subsidence, and accretion resulted in large predicted reductions in the extent of vegetated land (e.g., wetland) and changes in wave height reduction potential across the wetland. These were exacerbated by increases in sea-level from +0.217 m to +0.386 m over a 50-year period, especially at the lowest accretion rates in the degrading wetland. Mangrove vegetation increased wave attenuation within the degrading, subtropical, saline wetland, while grazing reduced wave attenuation in the temperate, prograding wetland. Coastal management decisions and actions, related to coastal vegetation type and structure, have the potential to change future wave attenuation at a spatial scale relevant to coastal protection planning. Therefore, a coastal management approach that includes disaster risk reduction, biodiversity, and climate change, can be informed by coastal modeling tools, such as those demonstrated here for two contrasting case studies.

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