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Missing the forest for the trees: how focusing on local bio-morphodynamic feedbacks compromises estuary-scale coastal management
Boston University Boston , United States. email@example.com
Christian Schwarz, KU Leuven Leuven , Belgium.
Maarten Kleinhans, Utrecht University Utrecht , Netherlands.
Karin Bryan, University of Waikato Hamilton , New Zealand.
Giovanni Coco, University of Auckland Auckland , New Zealand.
Stephen Hunt, Waikato Regional Council Hamilton , New Zealand.
Barend van Maanen, University of Exeter Exeter , United Kingdom.
Changes in upstream land-use have significantly transformed downstream coastal ecosystems around the globe. Restoration of coastal ecosystems often focuses on local-scale processes, thereby overlooking landscape-scale interactions that can ultimately determine restoration outcomes. Here we use an idealized bio-morphodynamic model, based on estuaries in New Zealand, to investigate the effects of both increased sediment inputs caused by upstream deforestation following European settlement and mangrove removal on estuarine morphology. Our results show that coastal mangrove removal initiatives, guided by knowledge on local-scale bio-morphodynamic feedbacks, cannot mitigate estuarine mud-infilling and restore antecedent sandy ecosystems. Unexpectedly, removal of mangroves enhances estuary-scale sediment trapping due to altered sedimentation patterns. Only reductions in upstream sediment supply can limit estuarine muddification. Our study demonstrates that bio-morphodynamic feedbacks can have contrasting effects at local and estuary scales. Consequently, human interventions like vegetation removal can lead to counterintuitive responses in estuarine landscape behavior that impede restoration efforts, highlighting that more holistic management approaches are needed.
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