Estuaries and Coasts

, Volume 35, Issue 2, pp 486–500 | Cite as

Salt Marsh Accretion and Storm Tide Variation: an Example from a Barrier Island in the North Sea

  • Mark SchuerchEmail author
  • J. Rapaglia
  • V. Liebetrau
  • A. Vafeidis
  • K. Reise


We reconstruct past accretion rates of a salt marsh on the island of Sylt, Germany, using measurements of the radioisotopes 210Pb and 137Cs, as well as historical aerial photographs. Results from three cores indicate accretion rates varying between 1 and 16 mm year−1. Comparisons with tide gauge data show that high accretion rates during the 1980s and 1990s coincide with periods of increased storm activity. We identify a critical inundation height of 18 cm below which the strength of a storm seems to positively influence salt marsh accretion rates and above which the frequency of storms becomes the major factor. In addition to sea level rise, we conclude that in low marsh zones subject to higher inundation levels, mean storm strength is the major factor affecting marsh accretion, whereas in high marsh zones with lower inundation levels, it is storm frequency that impacts marsh accretion.


Salt marsh Accretion rate Geochronology Storm activity Barrier Island Sylt 



This project was funded by the Cluster of Excellence 80 “The Future Ocean.” The “Future Ocean” is funded within the framework of the Excellence Initiative by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft on behalf of the German federal and state governments. Furthermore, we would like to thank Anton Eisenhauer for his support and the “Laboratory for Radioisotopes” in Goettingen for running the radiometric measurements. For their help in the field and during the preparation of the samples, we thank Daniela Arp, Michal Lichter, Tina Geissler, Natalia Zamora, and Claudia Wolff. The hydrological data for the tide gauge Hörnum Hafen were kindly supplied by Thomas Wahl, Jacobus Hofstede, and Gerd Hartwig. We would also like to thank the two anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments, which have helped in improving this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mark Schuerch
    • 1
    Email author
  • J. Rapaglia
    • 1
  • V. Liebetrau
    • 2
  • A. Vafeidis
    • 1
  • K. Reise
    • 3
  1. 1.“The Future Ocean” Excellence Cluster, Institute of GeographyUniversity of KielKielGermany
  2. 2.“The Future Ocean” Excellence Cluster, Leibniz Institute of Marine ScienceIFM-GEOMARKielGermany
  3. 3.Wadden Sea Station SyltAlfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine ResearchListGermany

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