Flow dynamics on the vegetated surfaces of coastal wetlands may impact a wide range of processes including geochemical exchanges at the sediment water interface, larval recruitment and dispersion, and sediment deposition and retention. Nevertheless, little field data exist which describe flow behavior through emergent vegetated wetlands and its control over sediment transport and deposition. The goal of this paper is to describe canopy flow dynamics and suspended particulate transport for a variety of marshes that differ with respect to vegetation type and tidal regime. In situ measurements of tidal currents were collected in micro-, meso-, and macrotidal marshes of the Pacific, Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic coasts of the US and in a UK marsh on the North Sea. Mean flow speeds, vertical velocity profiles, and turbulence intensities were evaluated as were canopy characteristics and total suspended solid (TSS) levels. Broad scale flow characteristics exhibited little variation among sites. Mean flow speeds were almost always less than 10 cm s−1 regardless of tidal regime. The presence of vegetation (regardless of type) significantly reduced both flow speed and turbulence intensity relative to adjacent open water areas. Variations in canopy morphology and the physical structure of individual plants control fine scale hydrodynamics, and influence particle advection, and particle settling. Flow speed magnitude and the importance of creek channel processes, however, appear to be most strongly influenced by the tidal regime in each of the marsh types examined.
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Vol. 36 • No. sp1