Coastal marshes are a critical natural defense against flooding. The flexible plants of the marsh both slow the water’s current and help damp waves. As a result of that hydrodynamic dissipation, marshes help protect against erosion and reduce the magnitude of flooding events. But coastal managers looking to maintain or improve their marshes in order to mitigate climate-change-driven storms need to be able to predict what level of vegetation they need.
To that end, a team of researchers has built a new model to better capture the flow effects of marsh grasses. Building from an individual, flexible plant (as opposed to a rigid cylinder, as grass is often represented), the authors constructed a model able to predict wave dissipation for many marsh configurations, which should help better predict the infrastructure changes needed in different coastal regions. (Image credit: T. Marquis; research credit: X. Zhang and H. Nepf; via APS Physics)