Little is known about the effectiveness of mangroves in suppressing water level heights during landfall of tropical storms and hurricanes. Recent hurricane strikes along the Gulf Coast of the United States have impacted wetland integrity in some areas and hastened the need to understand how and to what degree coastal forested wetlands confer protection by reducing the height of peak water level. In recent years, U.S. Geological Survey Gulf Coast research projects in Florida have instrumented mangrove sites with continuous water level recorders. Our ad hoc network of water level recorders documented the rise, peak, and fall of water levels (± 0.5 hr) from two hurricane events in 2004 and 2005. Reduction of peak water level heights from relatively in-line gages associated with one storm surge event indicated that mangrove wetlands can reduce water level height by as much as 9.4 cm/km inland over intact, relatively unchannelized expanses. During the other event, reductions were slightly less for mangroves along a river corridor. Estimates of water level attenuation were within the range reported in the literature but erred on the conservative side. These synoptic data from single storm events indicate that intact mangroves may support a protective role in reducing maximum water level height associated with surge.
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Vol. 29 • No. 1