Estuaries and Coasts

, Volume 40, Issue 5, pp 1371–1384 | Cite as

The Role of Sediment Dynamics for Inorganic Accretion Patterns in Southern California’s Mediterranean-Climate Salt Marshes

  • Jordan A. RosencranzEmail author
  • Lauren N. Brown
  • James R. Holmquist
  • Yareli Sanchez
  • Glen M. MacDonald
  • Richard F. Ambrose


Salt marsh resilience to sea-level rise depends on marsh plain elevation, tidal range, subsurface processes, as well as surface accretion, of which suspended-sediment concentration (SSC) is a critical component. However, spatial and temporal patterns of inorganic sedimentation are poorly quantified within and across Salicornia pacifica (pickleweed)-dominated marshes. We compared vertical accretion rates and re-examined previously published suspended-sediment patterns during dry-weather periods at Seal Beach Wetlands, which is characterized by a mix of Spartina foliosa (cordgrass) and pickleweed, and for Mugu Lagoon, where cordgrass is rare. Mugu Lagoon occurs higher in the tidal frame and receives terrigenous sediment from an adjacent creek. Feldspar marker horizons were established in winter 2013–2014 to measure accretion. Accretion rates at Seal Beach Wetlands and Mugu Lagoon were 6 ± 0.5 mm/year (mean ± SE) and 2 ± 0.3 mm/year. Also, the estimated sediment flux (g/year) across the random feldspar plots was 3.5 times higher at Seal Beach Wetlands. At Mugu Lagoon, accretion was higher near creeks, although not statistically significant. Dry-weather SSC showed similar concentrations at transect locations across sites. During wet weather, however, SSC at Mugu Lagoon increased at all locations, with concentrations decaying farther than 8 m from tidal creek edge. Based on these results from Mugu Lagoon, we conclude accretion patterns are set by infrequent large flooding events in systems where there is a watershed sediment source. Higher accretion rates at Seal Beach Wetlands may be linked to lower-marsh elevations, and thus more frequent inundation, compared with Mugu Lagoon.


Sea-level rise Salt marsh accretion Suspended-sediment concentration Mediterranean climate Salicornia pacifica Spartina foliosa 



We thank Evyan Borgnis, John Callaway, Lisa Schile, John Takekawa, and Karen Thorne for their expertise in relevant field and lab research methods and manuscript suggestions. We thank Kirk Gilligan (Seal Beach National Wildlife Refuge), Martin Ruane (NBVC Pt. Mugu), and Valerie Vartanian (NBVC Pt. Mugu) for providing access to salt marsh areas at Seal Beach Wetlands and Mugu Lagoon. This research was supported by the Southwest Climate Science Center and Department of Interior grants.


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Copyright information

© Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jordan A. Rosencranz
    • 1
    Email author
  • Lauren N. Brown
    • 2
  • James R. Holmquist
    • 1
    • 3
  • Yareli Sanchez
    • 1
  • Glen M. MacDonald
    • 1
    • 2
  • Richard F. Ambrose
    • 1
    • 4
  1. 1.Institute of the Environment and SustainabilityUniversity of CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA
  2. 2.Department of GeographyUniversity of CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA
  3. 3.Smithsonian Environmental Research CenterEdgewaterUSA
  4. 4.Department of Environmental Health SciencesUniversity of CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA

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