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Department of Geography



Response of Ecologically-mediated Shallow Intertidal Shore Transitions to extreme hydrodynamic forcing' (RESIST)

2018 - present

Salt marshes are increasingly valued for their role in coastal defence, as they reduce the impact of waves and erosion on shorelines and engineered coastal defences behind salt marshes. Yet the response of salt marsh margins to extreme hydrodynamic forcing is complex and currently not well understood.

The response of salt marsh and adjacent tidal flat sediments to wave forcing is considerably more complex than that of sandy shores, largely due to (a) the large silt/clay fractions present and thus the cohesive nature of the sediment involved and (b) the presence of (partially mobile) biological 'structures' (plants and other organisms) within and on the surface. Little is known about the types of hydrodynamic conditions that lead to erosion of these coastal features and of the damage salt marsh plants sustain under wave forcing.

However, until we have such knowledge, it will not be possible to predict the way in which the future morphology of these systems, and thus the degree of natural coastal protection that they will provide, will alter with sea level rise and climate change. These issues are particularly critical in the early stages of marsh establishment and growth.

This project will quantify:

  1. effects of extreme wave-forcing on seedling survival of different pioneer species
  2. erosion processes and rates under extreme forcing;
  3. marsh clifflet response to high energy wave conditions;
  4. marsh plant breakage under extreme conditions; and
  5. protection provided by novel artificial stabilisation as a restoration measure.

Collaborative partners

This project is led by the University of Cambridge (Dr Iris Möller) and conducted in collaboration with the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research, the University of Hamburg, Antwerp, Braunschweig, and Hannover.

For further details, see our project blog and funding programme for access to large-scale facilities, alongside information on the large wave flume facility in Hannover.

This project is closely linked to a NERC standard grant (NE/R01082X/1) on the 'Response of Ecologically-mediated Shallow Intertidal Shores and their Transitions to extreme hydrodynamic forcing in UK settings (RESIST-UK)', led by the University of Cambridge (Dr Iris Möller) in collaboration with Queen Mary University of London and the British Geological Survey and to the NERC BLUEcoast project (NE/N015878/1).

Other Cambridge Coastal Research Unit staff involved: Professor Tom Spencer, Helen Brooks, Elizabeth Christie, Ben Evans.


Photo credits: K. Schoutens