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This study provides new insights in the relative role of tidal creeks and the marsh edge in supplying water and sediments to and from tidal marshes for a wide range of tidal inundation cycles with different high water levels and for marsh zones of different developmental stage. Net import or export of water and its constituents (sediments, nutrients, pollutants) to or from tidal marshes has been traditionally estimated based on discharge measurements through a tidal creek. Complementary to this traditional calculation of water and sediment balances based on creek fluxes, we present novel methods to calculate water balances based on digital elevation modeling and sediment balances based on spatial modeling of surface sedimentation measurements. In contrast with spatial interpolation, the presented approach of spatial modeling accounts for the spatial scales at which sedimentation rates vary within tidal marshes. This study shows that for an old, high marsh platform, dissected by a well-developed creek network with adjoining levees and basins, flow paths are different for tidal inundation cycles with different high water levels: during shallow inundation cycles (high water level <0.2 m above the creek banks) almost all water is supplied via the creek system, while during higher inundation cycles (high water level > 0.2 m) the percentage of water directly supplied via the marsh edge increases with increasing high water level. This flow pattern is in accordance with the observed decrease in sedimentation rates with increasing distance from creeks and from the marsh edge. On a young, low marsh, characterized by a gently seaward sloping topography, material exchange does not take place predominantly via creeks but the marsh is progressively flooded starting from the marsh edge. As a consequence, the spatial sedimentation pattern is most related to elevation differences and distance from the marsh edge. Our results imply that the traditional measurement of tidal creek fluxes may lead in many cases to incorrect estimations of net sediment or nutrient budgets.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)338-352
JournalEstuaries and Coasts
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2005

ID: 259638