Tidal marsh

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Tidal salt marsh at Ella Nore in Chichester, England. Tidal salt marsh at Ella Nore - geograph.org.uk - 1368134.jpg
Tidal salt marsh at Ella Nore in Chichester, England.

A tidal marsh (also known as a type of "tidal wetland") is a marsh found along rivers, coasts and estuaries which floods and drains by the tidal movement of the adjacent estuary, sea or ocean. [1] Tidal marshes experience many overlapping persistent cycles, including diurnal and semi-diurnal tides, day-night temperature fluctuations, spring-neap tides, seasonal vegetation growth and decay, upland runoff, decadal climate variations, and centennial to millennial trends in sea level and climate. Tidal marshes are formed in areas that are sheltered from waves (such as beside edges of bays), in upper slops of intertidal, and where water is fresh or saline [2] .They are also impacted by transient disturbances such as hurricanes, floods, storms, and upland fires



Tidal marshes are differentiated into freshwater, brackish and salt according to the salinity of their water. [1] Coastal marshes lie along coasts and estuarine marshes lie inland within the tidal zone. Location determines the controlling processes, age, disturbance regime, and future persistence of tidal marshes. Tidal freshwater marshes are further divided into deltaic and fringing types. [3] Extensive research has been conducted on deltaic tidal freshwater marshes in Chesapeake Bay, [4] which were formed as a result of historic deforestation and intensive agriculture. [5]

Tidal marshes can be further categorized by salinity level, elevation, and sea level. [1] [6] Tidal marshes are commonly zoned into lower marshes (also called intertidal marshes) and upper or high marshes, based on their elevation above sea level. A middle marsh zone also exists for tidal freshwater marshes. [7]

Tidal marshes may be further classified into back-barrier marshes, estuarine brackish marshes and tidal freshwater marshes, depending on the influence of sea level. [6]


Coastal tidal marshes are found within coastal watersheds and encompass a variety of types including fresh and salt marshes, bottomland hardwood swamps, mangrove swamps, and palustrine wetlands. [8]

Island and barrier island

Tidal Marshes also form between a main shoreline and barrier islands. These elongated shifting landforms evolve parallel and in close proximity to the shoreline of a tidal marsh. [9] Many become fully submerged at high tide, and become directly attached to the mainland when at low tide. Barrier island formation includes mechanisms such as offshore bar theory, spit accretion theory, and climate change. [10] [11]

Ecosystem Services

Seaside sparrow (Ammospiza maritima). Seaside sparrow (28959673707).jpg
Seaside sparrow (Ammospiza maritima).

Tidal marsh ecosystems provide numerous services, including supplying habitats to support a diverse range of biodiversity. [1] Their areas are spawning grounds and home to "feeder fish" that lie low on the food chain, and serve as crucial rest-stops for migratory birds. Additionally, they provide suitable habitat to various tidal salt marsh specialist bird species, such as the seaside sparrow (Ammospiza maritima) and the willet (Tringa semipalmata) found in tidal marshes in Connecticut, U.S. [12]

Other ecosystem services include their role as significant carbon sinks and shoreline stabilizers. [13] [14] Tidal marshes provide flood protection to upland areas by storing ground water, and lessen the impact of storm surges on nearby shorelines. [1] Tidal marshes located along coastlines also act as intricate filtration systems for watersheds. [15] These areas absorb and trap pollutants from water run-off that travels from higher elevations to open water.

Anthropogenic Threats

Historically, the global loss of tidal marshes can be attributed to the implementation of tidal restrictions and other draining activities. [16] [17] Tidal restrictions methods include diking, tide gates, and impoundments, which were implemented on coastal lands internationally in favour of creating agricultural land, as exemplified with large-scale diking that has occurred in Atlantic Canada and the U.S. (e.g. in The Bay of Fundy). [16] [18] [19] Historical changes (due to anthropogenic activity) to tidal marshes have a lasting impact on them today. Tidal marshes have experienced the Gold Rush which filled some marshes with sediment due to erosion [20] . Logging has also damaged tidal marshes due to their decomposition and filling of marshes [21] . Tidal marshes sensitivity to anthropogenic activity have created long lasting affects.

Currently, rising sea levels is one of the leading threats to tidal marshes caused by global warming and climate change. [22] [23] Pollution due to urbanization also continues to endanger tidal marsh ecosystems. [1]


Restoration of tidal marshes through the removal of tidal restrictions to re-establish degraded ecosystem services have been underway internationally for decades. [16] Deliberate and natural restoration practices have occurred in the U.S., United Kingdom, Europe, and Canada. [16] [17] Research shows that tidal marsh restoration can be evaluated through various factors, such as vegetation, biogeochemical responses (e.g. salinity, sediment deposition, pH, and carbon sequestration), hydrologic responses, and wildlife community responses. [13] [16] [17]

See also

Related Research Articles

Brackish water Water with salinity between freshwater and seawater

Brackish water is water having more salinity than freshwater, but not as much as seawater. It may result from mixing seawater with fresh water together, as in estuaries, or it may occur in brackish fossil aquifers. The word comes from the Middle Dutch root "brak". Certain human activities can produce brackish water, in particular civil engineering projects such as dikes and the flooding of coastal marshland to produce brackish water pools for freshwater prawn farming. Brackish water is also the primary waste product of the salinity gradient power process. Because brackish water is hostile to the growth of most terrestrial plant species, without appropriate management it is damaging to the environment.

Estuary A partially enclosed coastal body of brackish water with one or more rivers or streams flowing into it, and with a free connection to the open sea

An estuary is a partially enclosed coastal body of brackish water with one or more rivers or streams flowing into it, and with a free connection to the open sea.

Lagoon A shallow body of water separated from a larger body of water by barrier islands or reefs

A lagoon is a shallow body of water separated from a larger body of water by barrier islands or reefs. Lagoons are commonly divided into coastal lagoons and atoll lagoons. They have also been identified as occurring on mixed-sand and gravel coastlines. There is an overlap between bodies of water classified as coastal lagoons and bodies of water classified as estuaries. Lagoons are common coastal features around many parts of the world.

Wetland land area that is permanently or seasonally saturated with water

A wetland is a distinct ecosystem that is flooded by water, either permanently or seasonally, where oxygen-free processes prevail. The primary factor that distinguishes wetlands from other land forms or water bodies is the characteristic vegetation of aquatic plants, adapted to the unique hydric soil. Wetlands play a number of functions, including water purification, water storage, processing of carbon and other nutrients, stabilization of shorelines, and support of plants and animals. Wetlands are also considered the most biologically diverse of all ecosystems, serving as home to a wide range of plant and animal life. Whether any individual wetland performs these functions, and the degree to which it performs them, depends on characteristics of that wetland and the lands and waters near it. Methods for rapidly assessing these functions, wetland ecological health, and general wetland condition have been developed in many regions and have contributed to wetland conservation partly by raising public awareness of the functions and the ecosystem services some wetlands provide.

River delta Silt deposition landform at the mouth of a river

A river delta is a landform created by deposition of sediment that is carried by a river as the flow leaves its mouth and enters slower-moving or stagnant water. This occurs where a river enters an ocean, sea, estuary, lake, reservoir, or another river that cannot carry away the supplied sediment. The size and shape of a delta is controlled by the balance between watershed processes that supply sediment, and receiving basin processes that redistribute, sequester, and export that sediment. The size, geometry, and location of the receiving basin also plays an important role in delta evolution. River deltas are important in human civilization, as they are major agricultural production centers and population centers. They can provide coastline defense and can impact drinking water supply. They are also ecologically important, with different species' assemblages depending on their landscape position.

Marsh wetland that is dominated by herbaceous rather than woody plant species

A marsh is a wetland that is dominated by herbaceous rather than woody plant species. Marshes can often be found at the edges of lakes and streams, where they form a transition between the aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. They are often dominated by grasses, rushes or reeds. If woody plants are present they tend to be low-growing shrubs, and then sometimes called carrs. This form of vegetation is what differentiates marshes from other types of wetland such as swamps, which are dominated by trees, and mires, which are wetlands that have accumulated deposits of acidic peat.

Salt marsh Coastal ecosystem between land and open saltwater that is regularly flooded

A salt marsh or saltmarsh, also known as a coastal salt marsh or a tidal marsh, is a coastal ecosystem in the upper coastal intertidal zone between land and open saltwater or brackish water that is regularly flooded by the tides. It is dominated by dense stands of salt-tolerant plants such as herbs, grasses, or low shrubs. These plants are terrestrial in origin and are essential to the stability of the salt marsh in trapping and binding sediments. Salt marshes play a large role in the aquatic food web and the delivery of nutrients to coastal waters. They also support terrestrial animals and provide coastal protection.

Barrier island A coastal dune landform that forms by wave and tidal action parallel to the mainland coast

Barrier islands are coastal landforms and a type of dune system that are exceptionally flat or lumpy areas of sand that form by wave and tidal action parallel to the mainland coast. They usually occur in chains, consisting of anything from a few islands to more than a dozen. They are subject to change during storms and other action, but absorb energy and protect the coastlines and create areas of protected waters where wetlands may flourish. A barrier chain may extend uninterrupted for over a hundred kilometers, excepting the tidal inlets that separate the islands, the longest and widest being Padre Island of Texas. The length and width of barriers and overall morphology of barrier coasts are related to parameters including tidal range, wave energy, sediment supply, sea-level trends, and basement controls. The amount of vegetation on the barrier has a large impact on the height and evolution of the island.

Mudflat Coastal wetlands

Mudflats or mud flats, also known as tidal flats, are coastal wetlands that form in intertidal areas where sediments have been deposited by tides or rivers. A recent global analysis suggested they are as extensive globally as mangroves. They are found in sheltered areas such as bays, bayous, lagoons, and estuaries. Mudflats may be viewed geologically as exposed layers of bay mud, resulting from deposition of estuarine silts, clays and marine animal detritus. Most of the sediment within a mudflat is within the intertidal zone, and thus the flat is submerged and exposed approximately twice daily.

Tidal creek The portion of a stream that is affected by ebb and flow of ocean tides

A tidal creek, tidal channel, or estuary is the portion of a stream that is affected by ebb and flow of ocean tides, in the case that the subject stream discharges to an ocean, sea or strait. Thus this portion of the stream has variable salinity and electrical conductivity over the tidal cycle, and flushes salts from inland soils. Tidal creeks are characterized by slow water velocity resulting in buildup of fine, organic sediment in wetlands. Creeks may often dry to a muddy channel with little or no flow at low tide, but with significant depth of water at high tide. Due to the temporal variability of water quality parameters within the tidally influenced zone, there are unique biota associated with tidal creeks which are often specialised to such zones. Nutrients and organic matter are delivered downstream to habitats normally lacking these, while the creeks also provide access to inland habitat for salt-water organisms.

Aquatic ecosystem ecosystem in a body of water

An aquatic ecosystem is an ecosystem in a body of water. Communities of organisms that are dependent on each other and on their environment live in aquatic ecosystems. The two main types of aquatic ecosystems are marine ecosystems and freshwater ecosystems.

Lake Borgne lagoon in Louisiana, United States of America

Lake Borgne is a lagoon of the Gulf of Mexico in southeastern Louisiana. Although early maps show it as a lake surrounded by land, coastal erosion has made it an arm of the Gulf of Mexico. Its name comes from the French word borgne, which means "one-eyed."

Mississippi River Delta plain

The Mississippi River Delta is the river delta at the confluence of the Mississippi River with the Gulf of Mexico, in Louisiana in the southeastern United States. It is a three-million-acre area of land that stretches from Vermilion Bay on the west, to the Chandeleur Islands in the east, on Louisiana's southeastern coast. It is part of the American Mediterranean Sea and the Louisiana coastal plain, one of the largest areas of coastal wetlands in the United States. The Mississippi River Delta is the 7th largest river delta on Earth (USGS) and is an important coastal region for the United States, containing more than 2.7 million acres of coastal wetlands and 37% of the estuarine marsh in the conterminous U.S. The coastal area is the nation's largest drainage basin and drains about 41% of the contiguous United States into the Gulf of Mexico at an average rate of 470,000 cubic feet per second.

Wetlands of Louisiana water-saturated coastal and swamp regions of southern Louisiana

The wetlands of Louisiana are water-saturated coastal and swamp regions of southern Louisiana.

Mangrove swamp Saline woodland or shrubland habitat formed by mangrove trees

A mangrove swamp is a distinct saline woodland or shrubland habitat formed by mangrove trees in brackish tidal water. They are characterized by depositional coastal environments, where fine sediments collect in areas protected from high-energy wave action. The saline conditions tolerated by various mangrove species range from brackish water, through pure seawater, to water concentrated by evaporation to over twice the salinity of ocean seawater.

A tidal river is a river whose flow and level are influenced by tides. A section of a larger river affected by the tides is a tidal reach, although it may sometimes be considered a tidal river if it has been given a separate name.

Marine ecosystem Ecosystem in saltwater environment

Marine ecosystems are the largest of Earth's aquatic ecosystems and are distinguished by waters that have a high salt content. These systems contrast with freshwater ecosystems, which have a lower salt content. Marine waters cover more than 70% of the surface of the Earth and account for more than 97% of Earth's water supply and 90% of habitable space on Earth. Marine ecosystems include nearshore systems, such as the salt marshes, mudflats, seagrass meadows, mangroves, rocky intertidal systems and coral reefs. They also extend outwards from the coast to include offshore systems, such as the surface ocean, pelagic ocean waters, the deep sea, oceanic hydrothermal vents, and the sea floor. Marine ecosystems are characterized by the biological community of organisms that they are associated with and their physical environment.

Environmental flows can be broken down into instream flow, freshwater inflow, and outflow, as shown in the depiction below. Instream flow is the freshwater water flowing in rivers or streams. Freshwater inflow is the freshwater that flows into an estuary. Outflow is the flow from an estuary to the ocean. This article's focus is upon freshwater inflow.

Coastal Erosion in Louisiana is the process of steady depletion of wetlands along the state's coastline in marshes, swamps, and barrier islands, particularly affecting the alluvial basin surrounding the mouth of the Mississippi River at the foot of the Gulf of Mexico on the Eastern half of the state's coast. In the last century, Southeast Louisiana has lost a large portion of its wetlands and is expected to lose more in the coming years, with some estimates claiming wetland losses equivalent to up to 1 football field per hour. One consequence of coastal erosion is an increased vulnerability to hurricane storm surges, which affects the New Orleans metropolitan area and other communities in the region. The state has outlined a comprehensive master plan for coastal restoration and has begun to implement various restoration projects such as fresh water diversions, but certain zones will have to be prioritized and targeted for restoration efforts, as it is unlikely that all depleted wetlands can be rehabilitated.

Climate change in Virginia

Climate change in Virginia encompasses the effects of climate change, attributed to man-made increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide, in the U.S. state of Virginia.


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