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Vegetation interactions with geotechnical properties and erodibility of salt marsh sediments

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Salt marshes provide diverse ecosystem services including coastal protection, habitat provision and carbon sequestration. The loss of salt marshes is a global scale phenomenon, of great socio-economic concern due to the substantial benefits that they provide. However, the causes of spatial variability in marsh loss rates are inadequately understood for the purposes of predicting future ecosystem distributions and functions under global environmental change. This study investigated the relationship between the presence of different saltmarsh plants and the mechanical properties of the underlying substrate that relate to its vulnerability to erosion. Relationships between three halophytes (Puccinellia spp., Spartina spp. and Salicornia spp.) and sediment stability were assessed and compared to unvegetated substrates using in-situ and laboratory tests of substrate geotechnical properties and sediment characteristics. Sampling was conducted at two UK sites with contrasting sedimentology, one sand-dominated and one clay-rich. Sediment samples, collected simultaneously with measurements of shear strength, were analysed for moisture content, particle size and organic, carbonate and mineral compositions. These data were then used to explore the contribution of plant type, alongside the sedimentological parameters, to measured shear strength.



Salt marsh, Vegetation, Sediment, Shear strength, Erodibility, Geomorphology

Journal Title

Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science

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Volume Title



Elsevier BV
Natural Environment Research Council (NE/R01082X/1)
NERC (NE/L002507/1)
Natural Environment Research Council (NE/N015878/1)