Temporal and Spatial Accretion Patterns and the Impact of Livestock Grazing in a Restored Coastal Salt Marsh

Koppenaal, E.C.; Esselink, P.; Duin, W.E. van; Bakker, J.P.


A summer polder had developed a deficit in surface elevation of about 20 cm in respect to rising sea level during its almost one-hundred-year period of embankment. We addressed the questions whether the distance of the restored site to the intertidal flats and continuation of livestock grazing in the restored site could hamper surface-elevation change during the first 10 years after de-embankment of the summer polder. The surface-elevation change showed similar positive linear relationships with annual tidal flooding in both the reference salt marsh and the restored site, indicating that the surface-elevation change in the restored site was not moderated by the distance from the sea. The surface-elevation change had a clear seasonal pattern with positive values in winter and negative values during summer. The surface-elevation change was 11 mm/year in the grazed reference salt marsh and 7 mm/year in the grazed restored site, but amounted to 17 mm/year in ungrazed exclosures in the restored site, showing that grazing retarded the catching up of the elevation deficit in the restored site. The surface-elevation change within the restored site was higher close to the constructed creeks indicating the inception of levee formation. The surface-elevation change was also positively affected by the proximity of breaches in the embankment, but this effect was less clear than the effect of creeks. We conclude that the surface-elevation deficit may be compensated in the Wadden Sea summer polders by their de-embankment when sediment supply is high, whereas livestock grazing retards this process. Dug creeks increase spatial variation in the restored site.