25 Jul 2023
 | 25 Jul 2023
Status: this preprint is open for discussion.

On the relative role of abiotic and biotic controls on channel network development: insights from scaled tidal flume experiments

Sarah Hautekiet, Jan-Eike Rossius, Olivier Gourgue, Maarten G. Kleinhans, and Stijn Temmerman

Abstract. Tidal marshes provide highly valued ecosystem services, which depend on variations in the geometric properties of the tidal channel networks dissecting marsh landscapes. The development and evolution of channel network properties are controlled by abiotic (dynamic flow-landform feedback) and biotic processes (e.g., vegetation-flow-landform feedback). However, the relative role of biotic and abiotic processes, and under which condition one or the other is more dominant, remains poorly understood. In this study, we investigated the impact of spatio-temporal plant colonization patterns on tidal channel network development through flume experiments. Four scaled experiments mimicking tidal landscape development were conducted in a tidal flume facility: two control experiments without vegetation, a third experiment with hydrochorous vegetation colonization (i.e., seed dispersal via the tidal flow), and a fourth with patchy colonization (i.e., by direct seeding on the sediment bed). Our results show that more dense and efficient channel networks are found in the vegetation experiments, especially in the hydrochorous seeding experiment with slower vegetation colonization. Further, an interdependency between abiotic and biotic controls on channel development can be deduced. Whether biotic factors affect channel network development seems to depend on the force of the hydrodynamic energy and the stage of the system development. Vegetation-flow-landform feedbacks are only dominant in contributing to channel development in places where intermediate hydrodynamic energy levels occur and mainly have an impact during the transition phase from a bare to a vegetated landscape state. Overall, our results suggest a zonal domination of abiotic processes at the seaward side of intertidal basins, while biotic processes dominate system development more towards the landward side.

Sarah Hautekiet et al.

Status: open (until 24 Oct 2023)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-1515', Anonymous Referee #1, 18 Sep 2023 reply
  • RC2: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-1515', Luca Carniello, 22 Sep 2023 reply

Sarah Hautekiet et al.

Sarah Hautekiet et al.


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Short summary
This study examined how vegetation growing in marshes affects the formation of tidal channel networks. Experiments were conducted to imitate marsh development, both with and without vegetation. The results show interdependency between biotic and abiotic factors in channel development. They mainly play a role when the landscape changes from bare to vegetated. Overall, the study suggests that abiotic factors are more important near the sea, while vegetation plays a larger role closer to the land.