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Ecohydraulics and Morphodynamics of Water Systems

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Front. Environ. Sci. | doi: 10.3389/fenvs.2019.00025

Sea level rise and the dynamics of the marsh-upland boundary

  • 1Boston University, United States
  • 2Department of Earth and Environment, Boston University, United States
  • 3School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, Yale University, United States
  • 4Department of Environment Sciences, Univesity of Virginia, United States
  • 5Department of Ecosystem Science and Management, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Texas A&M University College Station, United States
  • 6Biology Department, California State University, San Bernardino, United States

During sea level rise, salt marshes transgress inland invading low-lying forests, agricultural fields, and suburban areas. This transgression is a complex process regulated by infrequent storms that flood upland ecosystems increasing soil salinity. As a result upland vegetation is replaced by halophyte marsh plants. Here we present a review of the main processes and feedbacks regulating the transition from upland ecosystems to salt marshes. The goal is to provide a process-based framework that enables the development of quantitative models for the dynamics of the marsh-upland boundary. Particular emphasis is given to the concept of ecological ratchet, combining the press disturbance of sea level rise with the pulse disturbance of storms.

Keywords: marsh upland boundary, sea level rise, effect of storms on forests, salt marsh, Soil salinity, marsh transgression, marsh boundary

Received: 17 Sep 2018; Accepted: 07 Feb 2019.

Edited by:

Carlo Camporeale, Politecnico di Torino, Italy

Reviewed by:

Andrea D’Alpaos, University of Padova, Italy
Miguel Ortega Sánchez, University of Granada, Spain  

Copyright: © 2019 Fagherazzi, Anisfeld, Blum, Long, Feagin, Fernandes, Kearney and Williams. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Sergio Fagherazzi, Boston University, Boston, United States,