Coastal flood protection by a combined nature-based and engineering approach: Modeling the effects of marsh geometry and surrounding dikes| Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science | 2016 | Peer Reviewed | Original research | https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0272771416300956
As ecosystem-based adaptation to global change is gaining ground, strategies to protect coastal and estuarine areas from increasing flood hazards are starting to consist of natural tidal wetland conservation and restoration in addition to conventional coastal defense structures. In this study, the capacity of tidal wetlands to locally attenuate peak water levels during storm tides is analyzed using a two-dimensional hydrodynamic model (TELEMAC-2D) for a 3000 ha intertidal marsh (SW Netherlands). Model results indicate that peak water level reduction largely varies between individual flooding events and between different locations in the marsh. Model scenarios with variable dike positions show that attenuation rates can be minimized by blockage and set up of water levels against dikes or other structures confining the marsh size. This blockage only affects peak water level attenuation across wetlands if the duration of the flood wave is long compared to the marsh size. A minimum marsh width of 6 to 10 km is required to completely avoid blockage effects for the storm tidal cases assessed in this study. If blockage does not affect flood wave propagation, variations in attenuation rates between different locations in the marsh and between tides with varying high water levels can be explained with a single relationship based on the ratio between the water volume on the marsh platform and the total water volume on the platform and in the channels. Attenuation starts to occur when this ratio exceeds 0.2-0.4 and increases from there on up to a maximum of 29 cm/km for a ratio of about 0.85. Furthermore, model scenarios with varying marsh channel depth show that marsh scale attenuation rates increase by up to 4 cm/km if the channel elevation is raised by 0.7 m on average. Conversely, marsh scale attenuation rates decrease by up to 2 cm/km for scenarios in which the channels are lowered by 0.9 m on average. The marsh platform elevation has little effect on the maximum attenuation, but it determines which tides are attenuated. In particular, only overmarsh tides that inundate the platform are attenuated, while undermarsh tides that only flood the marsh channels are not attenuated or even amplified. These findings may assist coastal communities and managers in the optimization of the coastal defense function of tidal wetlands in combination with dikes.