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Early indicators of tidal ecosystem shifts in estuaries
Fivash, G.S.; Temmerman, S.; Kleinhans, M.G.; Heuner, M.; van der Heide, T.; Bouma, T.J. (2023). Early indicators of tidal ecosystem shifts in estuaries. Nature Comm. 14(1): 1911.

Bijhorende data:
In: Nature Communications. Nature Publishing Group: London. ISSN 2041-1723; e-ISSN 2041-1723, meer
Peer reviewed article  

Beschikbaar in  Auteurs 

Author keywords
    Ecosystem ecology; Geomorphology; Riparian ecology; Wetlands ecology

Auteurs  Top 
  • Fivash, G.S., meer
  • Temmerman, S., meer
  • Kleinhans, M.G., meer
  • Heuner, M.
  • van der Heide, T., meer
  • Bouma, T.J., meer

    Forecasting transitions between tidal ecosystem states, such as between bare tidal flats and vegetated marshes, is crucial because it may imply the irreversible loss of valuable ecosystem services. In this study, we combine geospatial analyses of three European estuaries with a simple numerical model to demonstrate that the development of micro-topographic patterning on tidal flats is an early indicator of marsh establishment. We first show that the development of micro-topographic patterns precedes vegetation establishment, and that patterns tend to form only on tidal flats with a slope of <0.3 degrees. Numerical modelling then provides an explanation for the formation of micro-topography due to the natural concentration of draining surface water over very gentle slopes. We find this early indicator to be robust across three estuaries where anthropogenic deepening and narrowing has occurred in recent decades, which may suggest its broader applicability to other estuaries with similar morphological management.

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