IHCantabria develops a new predictive tool for modeling wave attenuation produced by salt marshes

by | 11 Oct, 2023 | cambio climático, Climate Risks, Adaptation and Resilience, Coastal Management and Engineering, General News | 0 comments

This numerical tool uses the aerial biomass of the ecosystem in order to record its attenuation capacity. It stands out mainly for its predictive nature and has been successfully validated for six marsh species with different biomechanical properties and geometry.



To quantify wave attenuation in marsh fields, researchers from the Environmental Hydraulics Institute of the University of Cantabria (IHCantabria) have implemented, in a numerical model, an innovative formulation that uses aerial biomass as a key variable. Fernando López Arias, Maria Maza, Javier L. Lara and Íñigo J. Losada refer to this topic in an article recently published in the journal Coastal Engineering.

The main objective of this research, according to Fernando Lopez is to “implement and validate this formulation in a widely used numerical model for propagating waves across the coast. In addition to its implementation, we seek to extend this formulation to consider the spatial variation of vegetation characteristics, as these are not uniform across the tidal marsh field”. The purpose of this study is to reproduce the wave attenuation due to the effect of vegetation, in order to quantify its coastal protection service.

The methodology used involves the numerical implementation of a formulation developed in a previous study, carried out by María Maza et al. in 2022, which relates the aerial biomass of the ecosystem to its attenuation capacity. This formulation is implemented in a numerical model widely recognized in the scientific community. The results obtained were validated through laboratory test data and field measurements taken in the Western Scheldt estuary in the Netherlands. This has made it possible to demonstrate its versatility, without the need to use calibration coefficients. The new numerical tool was successfully validated for six marsh species with different biomechanical properties and geometry, demonstrating its ability to predict wave attenuation accurately.

The results of this study allow estimating the attenuation of energy produced by the vegetation field from its aerial biomass, a variable that can be obtained through remote sensing. This facilitates its application in areas with different species of marshes, having “a relevant impact for the management of coastal ecosystems and for decision making related to coastal protection,” according to María Maza, co-author of the article.

As for future developments, the research team plans to broaden its focus to include other processes that affect hydrodynamics in marsh areas, such as the interaction between currents and waves, thus providing a more complete view of the protective service provided by these ecosystems. For this reason, the aforementioned study, referred to in the article published in the journal Coastal Engineering, represents a significant advance in the understanding and prediction of wave attenuation produced by coastal ecosystems, and its application has the potential to have a positive impact on coastal climate change adaptation using nature-based solutions.

For more information, please contact the co-authors of the article published in the journal Coastal Engineering, which can be accessed through the following link.