Sedimentation, elevation and marsh evolution in a southeastern Australian estuary during changing climatic conditions

Kerrylee Rogers*, Neil Saintilan, Alice J. Howe, José F. Rodríguez

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


Mangrove and salt marsh vertical accretion and surface elevation change was measured at Kooragang Island within the Ramsar-listed Lower Hunter estuarine wetlands in New South Wales, Australia, using surface elevation tables and marker horizons over a ten-year period. We surveyed mangrove, salt marsh and a zone of mangrove encroachment into salt marsh. The period of analysis was dominated by El Niño (drought) climatic conditions, though included a series of east coast low pressure systems and associated storms over the central coast of NSW in June 2007. The storms may have initially caused scouring of sediments in the mangrove zone, followed by significant accretion within both the mangrove and salt marsh during the six months following the storms, with most of this accretion corresponding to spring tides several months after the storms. These accretion events were not accompanied by an equivalent elevation change, and robust elevation trends over the study period in mangrove and salt marsh indicate that the storms may have had little impact on the longer-term elevation dynamics within both the mangrove and salt marsh at Kooragang Island. Elevation dynamics in these zones appear to be regulated by vertical accretion over longer time periods and modulated by hydrology at shorter temporal scales. Elevation declined in the mangrove encroachment zone despite continued vertical accretion and we propose that this discrepancy may be associated with expansion of tidal creeks near the zone of mangrove encroachment or loss of salt marsh vegetation. This pattern of encroachment is consistent with observations from sites throughout the region and may be related to climatic perturbations (El Niño Southern Oscillation) rather than directly attributed to the storms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)172-181
Number of pages10
JournalEstuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science
Publication statusPublished - 20 Nov 2013
Externally publishedYes

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