Storm Episodes and Climate Change Implications for Tidal Marshes in the San Francisco Bay Estuary, California, USA

By Karen Thorne, Kevin Buffington, John Takekawa and Kathleen Swanson.

Published by The International Journal of Climate Change: Impacts and Responses

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Tidal marshes are dynamic ecosystems, which are influenced by oceanic and freshwater processes and daily changes in sea level. Projected sea-level rise and changes in storm frequency and intensity will affect tidal marshes by altering suspended sediment supply, plant communities, and the inundation duration and depth of the marsh platform. The objective of this research was to evaluate if regional weather conditions resulting in low-pressure storms changed tidal conditions locally within three tidal marshes. We hypothesized that regional storms will increase sea level heights locally, resulting in increased inundation of the tidal marsh platform and plant communities. Using site-level measurements of elevation, plant communities, and water levels, we present results from two storm events in 2010 and 2011 from the San Francisco Bay Estuary (SFBE), California, USA. The January 2010 storm had the lowest recorded sea level pressure in the last 30 years for this region. During the storm episodes, the duration of tidal marsh inundation was 1.8 and 3.1 times greater than average for that time of year, respectively. At peak storm surges, over 65% in 2010 and 93% in 2011 of the plant community was under water. We also discuss the implications of these types of storms and projected sea-level rise on the structure and function of the tidal marshes and how that will impact the hydro-geomorphic processes and marsh biotic communities.

Keywords: Climate Change, ENSO, Storm, Salt Marsh, Sea-level Rise, San Francisco Bay, Tide, Tidal Marsh, Inundation

The International Journal of Climate Change: Impacts and Responses, Volume 4, Issue 4, pp.169-190. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.055MB).

Dr. Karen Thorne

Western Ecological Research Center, U.S. Geological Survey, Vallejo, CA, USA

Kevin Buffington

Western Ecological Research Center, U.S. Geological Survey, Vallejo, CA, USA

Dr. John Takekawa

Western Ecological Research Center, U.S. Geological Survey, Vallejo, CA, USA

Kathleen Swanson

Western Ecological Research Center, U.S. Geological Survey, Menlo Park, CA, USA


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