Estuaries and Coasts

, Volume 41, Issue 3, pp 613–625 | Cite as

Tidal Marsh Restoration Design Affects Feedbacks Between Inundation and Elevation Change

  • Lotte OosterleeEmail author
  • Tom J. S. Cox
  • Wouter Vandenbruwaene
  • Tom Maris
  • Stijn Temmerman
  • Patrick Meire


Tidal marsh (re)creation on formerly embanked land is increasingly executed along estuaries and coasts in Europe and the USA, either by restoring complete or by reduced tidal exchange. Ecosystem functioning and services are largely affected by the hydro-geomorphologic development of these areas. For natural marshes, the latter is known to be steered by feedbacks between tidal inundation and sediment accretion, allowing marshes to reach and maintain an equilibrium elevation relative to the mean sea level. However, for marsh restoration sites, these feedbacks may be disturbed depending on the restoration design. This was investigated by comparing the inundation-elevation change feedbacks in a natural versus restoration site with reduced tidal exchange in the Scheldt estuary (Belgium). This study analyzes long-term (9 years) datasets on elevation change and tidal inundation properties to disentangle the different mechanisms behind this elevation-inundation feedback. Moreover, subsequent changes in sediment properties that may affect this feedback were explored. In the restoration area with reduced tidal exchange, we found a different elevation-inundation feedback than on natural marshes, which is a positive feedback on initially high sites (i.e., sediment accretion leads to increasing inundation, hence causing accelerating sediment accretion rates) and a gradual silting up of the whole area. Furthermore, there is evidence for the presence of a relict consolidated sediment layer. Consequently, shallow subsidence is less likely to occur. Although short-term ecological development of the tidal marsh was not impeded, long-term habitat development may be affected by the differences in hydro-geomorphological interactions. An increase of inundation frequency on the initially high sites may cause inhibition of habitat succession or even reversed succession. Over time, the climax state of the restoration area may be different compared to natural marshes. Moreover, sediment-related ecosystem services, such as nutrient and carbon burial, may be positively influenced because of continuing sedimentation, although flood water storage potential will decrease with increasing elevation. Depending on the restoration goals, ecosystem trajectories and delivery of ecosystem services can be controlled by adaptive management of the tidal volume entering the restoration area.


Tidal marsh restoration Hydro-geomorphology Biogeochemistry Controlled reduced tide (CRT) Habitat creation Adaptive management 



The authors would like to thank the Flemish Government, Waterwegen & Zeekanaal for financing the SIGMA and OMES project, which made this research possible, and the Flemish Agency for Forest and Nature (ANB). We greatly thank our field research team: Jens Verschaeren, Lise Verhaeghe, Tom VandenNeucker, Stijn Baeten, Tim Van den Broeck, Mérielle Van de Graaf, and the thesis students Yousef Zidan and Maxime Gauthier for support in the field and/or lab assistance. We are grateful to the freeware community for providing RStudio and Inkscape 0.91.


  1. ABP. 1998. Review of coastal habitat creation, restoration and recharge schemes, ed. A. Research, 1–188. Southampton: ABP Marine Environment Research.Google Scholar
  2. ABPmer. 2016. The Online Managed Realignment Guide (accessed January 2016). ABP Marine Environmental Research Ltd.,.
  3. Allen, J.R.L. 1990. Salt-Marsh Growth and Stratification—a Numerical-Model with Special Reference to the Severn Estuary, Southwest Britain. Marine Geology 95: 77–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Allen, J.R.L. 2000. Morphodynamics of Holocene salt marshes: a review sketch from the Atlantic and Southern North Sea coasts of Europe. Quaternary Science Reviews 19: 1155–1231.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Beauchard, O., S. Jacobs, T.J.S. Cox, T. Maris, D. Vrebos, A. Van Braeckel, and P. Meire. 2011. A new technique for tidal habitat restoration: Evaluation of its hydrological potentials. Ecological Engineering 37: 1849–1858.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Beauchard, O., S. Jacobs, T. Ysebaert, and P. Meire. 2013a. Avian response to tidal freshwater habitat creation by controlled reduced tide system. Estuarine Coastal and Shelf Science 131: 12–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Beauchard, O., S. Jacobs, T. Ysebaert, and P. Meire. 2013b. Sediment macroinvertebrate community functioning in impacted and newly-created tidal freshwater habitats. Estuarine Coastal and Shelf Science 120: 21–32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Beauchard, O., J. Teuchies, S. Jacobs, E. Struyf, T. Van der Spiet, and P. Meire. 2014. Sediment Abiotic Patterns in Current and Newly Created Intertidal Habitats from an Impacted Estuary. Estuaries and Coasts 37: 973–985.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Burden, A., R.A. Garbutt, C.D. Evans, D.L. Jones, and D.M. Cooper. 2013. Carbon sequestration and biogeochemical cycling in a saltmarsh Subject to coastal managed realignment. Estuarine Coastal and Shelf Science 120: 12–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cahoon, D.R., and R.K. Turner. 1989. Accretion and canal impacts in a rapidly subsiding wetland II. Feldspar marker horizon technique. Estuaries 12: 260–268.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Cahoon, D.R., D.J. Reed, and J.W. Day. 1995. Estimating Shallow Subsidence in Microtidal Salt Marshes of the Southeastern United-States-Kaye and Barghoorn Revisited. Marine Geology 128: 1–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cahoon, D.R., J.C. Lynch, B.C. Perez, B. Segura, R.D. Holland, C. Stelly, G. Stephenson, and P. Hensel. 2002. High-precision measurements of wetlands sedimentation elevation: II. The rod surface elevation table. Journal of Sedimentary Research 72: 734–739.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Callaway, J.C., R.D. DeLaune, and W.H. Patrick. 1996. Chernobyl Cs-137 used to determine sediment accretion rates at selected northern European coastal wetlands. Limnology and Oceanography 41: 444–450.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Clapp, J. 2009. Managed realignment in the Humber estuary: factors influencing sedimentation. PhD thesis, University of Hull Hull.Google Scholar
  15. Cox, T.J.S. 2014. Tides: Quasi-Periodic Time Series Characteristics. R package version 1.1.Google Scholar
  16. Cox, T.J.S., T. Maris, P. De Vleeschauwer, T. De Mulder, K. Soetaert, and P. Meire. 2006. Flood control areas as an opportunity to restore estuarine habitat. Ecological Engineering 28: 55–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Crooks, S., Ledoux, L., and Pye, K.. 2001. No-net-loss the European Union way. National Wetlands Newsletter 23.Google Scholar
  18. Crooks, S., J. Schutten, G.D. Sheern, K. Pye, and A.J. Davy. 2002. Drainage and elevation as factors in the restoration of salt marsh in Britain. Restoration Ecology 10: 591–602.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. D'Alpaos, A., S. Lanzoni, M. Marani, and A. Rinaldo. 2007. Landscape evolution in tidal embayments: Modeling the interplay of erosion, sedimentation, and vegetation dynamics. Journal of Geophysical Research-Earth Surface 112.Google Scholar
  20. De Ferraris, J. 1965. Kabinetskaart van de Oostenrijkse Nederlanden voor Zijn Koninklijke Hoogheid de Hertog Karel Alexander van Lotharingen. Brussels: Koninklijke Bibliotheek van België. Reprint on scale 1:25000.Google Scholar
  21. Department of Fisheries and Oceans. 1986. Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Ottawa, Ontario: Communications Directorate, Fisheries and Oceans.Google Scholar
  22. European Commission. 2011. (2011/2307(INI) Our life insurance, our natural capital: an EU biodiversity strategy to 2020.Google Scholar
  23. French, J.R. 1993. Numerical-Simulation of Vertical Marsh Growth and Adjustment to Accelerated Sea-Level Rise, North Norfolk, Uk. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms 18: 63–81.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. French, P.W. 2006. Managed realignment—The developing story of a comparatively new approach to soft engineering. Estuarine Coastal and Shelf Science 67: 409–423.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Garbutt, R.A., C.J. Reading, M. Wolters, A.J. Gray, and P. Rothery. 2006. Monitoring the development of intertidal habitats on former agricultural land after the managed realignment of coastal defences at Tollesbury, Essex, UK. Marine Pollution Bulletin 53: 155–164.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Jacobs, S., O. Beauchard, E. Struyf, T.J.S. Cox, T. Maris, and P. Meire. 2009. Restoration of tidal freshwater vegetation using controlled reduced tide (CRT) along the Schelde Estuary (Belgium). Estuarine Coastal and Shelf Science 85: 368–376.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Kadiri, M., K.L. Spencer, C.M. Heppell, and P. Fletcher. 2011. Sediment characteristics of a restored saltmarsh and mudflat in a managed realignment scheme in Southeast England. Hydrobiologia 672: 79–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Kirwan, M.L., G.R. Guntenspergen, A. D'Alpaos, J.T. Morris, S.M. Mudd, and S. Temmerman. 2010. Limits on the adaptibility of coastal marshes to rising sea level. Geophysical Research Letters 37: L23401.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Leonard, L.A. 1997. Controls on sediment transport and deposition in an incised mainland marsh basin, southeastern North Carolina. Wetlands 17: 263–274.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Madsen, B., Carroll, N., Kandy, D., and Bennett, G.. 2011. Update: State of Biodiversity Markets Offset and Compensation Programs Worldwide.Google Scholar
  31. Mariotti, G., W.S. Kearney, and S. Fagherazzi. 2016. Soil creep in salt marshes. Geology 44: 459–462.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Maris, T., T.J.S. Cox, S. Temmerman, P. De Vleeschauwer, S. Van Damme, T. De Mulder, E. Van den Bergh, and P. Meire. 2007. Tuning the tide: creating ecological conditions for tidal marsh development in a flood control area. Hydrobiologia 588: 31–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Meire, P., T. Ysebaert, S. Van Damme, E. Van den Bergh, T. Maris, and E. Struyf. 2005. The Scheldt estuary: A description of a changing ecosystem. Hydrobiologia 540: 1–11.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Meire, P., W. Dauwe, T. Maris, P. Peeters, L. Coen, M. Deschamps, J. Rutten, and S. Temmerman. 2014. Sigma plan proves efficiency. ECSA Bulletin 62: 19–23.Google Scholar
  35. Morris, J.T., P.V. Sundareshwar, C.T. Nietch, B. Kjerfve, and D.R. Cahoon. 2002. Responses of coastal wetlands to rising sea level. Ecology 83: 2869–2877.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Neubauer, S.C. 2008. Contributions of mineral and organic components to tidal freshwater marsh accretion. Estuarine Coastal and Shelf Science 78: 78–88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Nolte, S., E.C. Koppenaal, P. Esselink, K.S. Dijkema, M. Schuerch, A.V. De Groot, J.P. Bakker, and S. Temmerman. 2013. Measuring sedimentation in tidal marshes: a review on methods and their applicability in biogeomorphological studies. Journal of Coastal Conservation 17: 301–325.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Olff, H., J. De Leeuw, J.P. Bakker, R.J. Platerink, H.J. Van Wijnen, and W. De Munck. 1997. Vegetation succession and herbivory in a salt marsh: changes induced by sea level rise and silt deposition along an elevational gradient. Journal of Ecology 85: 799–814.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Pendle, M. W. 2013. Estuarine and coastal managed realignment sites in England. A comparison of predictions with monitoring results for selected case studies. HR Wallingford Ltd.Google Scholar
  40. Pethick, J.S. 1981. Long-Term Accretion Rates on Tidal Salt Marshes. Journal of Sedimentary Petrology 51: 571–577.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Pethick, J. 2002. Estuarine and tidal wetland restoration in the United Kingdom: Policy versus practice. Restoration Ecology 10: 431–437.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. R Development Core Team. 2014. R: A language and environment for statistical computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing, Vienna, Austria.
  43. Schuerch, M., A. Vafeidis, T. Slawig, and S. Temmerman. 2013. Modeling the influence of changing storm patterns on the ability of a salt marsh to keep pace with sea level rise. Journal of Geophysical Research-Earth Surface 118: 84–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Spencer, K.L., A.B. Cundy, S. Davies-Hearn, R. Hughes, S. Turner, and C.L. MacLeod. 2008. Physicochemical changes in sediments at Orplands Farm, Essex, UK following 8 years of managed realignment. Estuarine Coastal and Shelf Science 76: 608–619.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Spencer, K.L., S.J. Carr, L.M. Diggens, J.A. Tempest, M.A. Morris, and G.L. Harvey. 2017. The impact of pre-restoration land-use and disturbance on sediment structure, hydrology and the sediment geochemical environment in restored saltmarshes. Science of the Total Environment 587-588: 47–58.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Struyf, E., S. Jacobs, P. Meire, K. Jensen, and A. Barendregt. 2009. Plant communities of European tidal freshwater wetlands. In Tidal Freshwater Wetlands, ed. A. Barendregt, D.F. Whigham, and A.H. Baldwin, 59–70. Leiden: Backhuys Publishers.Google Scholar
  47. Temmerman, S., G. Govers, P. Meire, and S. Wartel. 2003. Modelling long-term tidal marsh growth under changing tidal conditions and suspended sediment concentrations, Scheldt estuary, Belgium. Marine Geology 193: 151–169.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Temmerman, S., G. Govers, S. Wartel, and P. Meire. 2004. Modelling estuarine variations in tidal marsh sedimentation: response to changing sea level and suspended sediment concentrations. Marine Geology 212: 1–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Tempest, J.A., G.L. Harvey, and K.L. Spencer. 2015. Modified sediments and subsurface hydrology in natural and recreated salt marshes and implications for delivery of ecosystem services. Hydrological Processes 29: 2346–2357.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Ursino, N., S. Silvestri, and M. Marani. 2004. Subsurface flow and vegetation patterns in tidal environments. Water Resources Research 40.Google Scholar
  51. USACE, and USEPA. 2008. Compensatory mitigation for losses of aquatic resources; final rule In Compensatory Mitigation for Losses of Aquatic Resources; Final Rule. In 2008, EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, through a joint rulemaking, expanded the 404(b)(1) Guidelines to include more comprehensive standards for compensatory mitigatio, ed. U.S.A.C.o. Engineers] and U.S.E.P. Agency], 19593–19705.Google Scholar
  52. Vandenbruwaene, W., T. Maris, T.J.S. Cox, D.R. Cahoon, P. Meire, and S. Temmerman. 2011. Sedimentation and response to sea-level rise of a restored marsh with reduced tidal exchange: Comparison with a natural tidal marsh. Geomorphology 130: 115–126.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Vandenbruwaene, W., P. Meire, and S. Temmerman. 2012. Formation and evolution of a tidal channel network within a constructed tidal marsh. Geomorphology 151: 114–125.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Vartapetian, B.B., and M.B. Jackson. 1997. Plant adaptations to anaerobic stress. Annals of Botany 79: 3–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Wolters, M., A. Garbutt, and J.P. Bakker. 2005. Salt-marsh restoration: evaluating the success of de-embankments in north-west Europe. Biological Conservation 123: 249–268.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Zedler, J.B. 1996. Ecological issues in wetland mitigation: An introduction to the forum. Ecological Applications 6: 33–37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of AntwerpEcosystem Management Research GroupWilrijkBelgium
  2. 2.Flanders HydraulicsAntwerpBelgium

Personalised recommendations