Science Serving Maryland's Coasts

Research Publications: UM-SG-RS-2007-06


A nearshore model to investigate the effects of seagrass bed geometry on wave attenuation and suspended sediment transport.




Chen, SN; Sanford, LP; Koch, EW; Shi, F; North, EW


Estuaries and Coasts 30(2):296-310




The effects of seagrass bed geometry on wave attenuation and suspended sediment transport were investigated using a modified Nearshore Community Model (NearCoM). The model was enhanced to account for cohesive sediment erosion and deposition, sediment transport, combined wave and current shear stresses, and seagrass effects on drag. Expressions for seagrass drag as a function of seagrass shoot density and canopy height were derived from published flume studies of model vegetation. The predicted reduction of volume flux for steady flow through a bed agreed reasonably well with a separate flume study. Predicted wave attenuation qualitatively captured seasonal patterns observed in the field: wave attenuation peaked during the flowering season and decreased as shoot density and canopy height decreased. Model scenarios with idealized bathymetries demonstrated that, when wave orbital velocities and the seagrass canopy interact, increasing seagrass bed width in the direction of wave propagation results in higher wave attenuation, and increasing incoming wave height results in higher relative wave attenuation. The model also predicted lower skin friction, reduced erosion rates, and higher bottom sediment accumulation within and behind the bed. Reduced erosion rates within seagrass beds have been reported, but reductions in stress behind the bed require further studies for verification. Model results suggest that the mechanism of sediment trapping by seagrass beds is more complex than reduced erosion rates alone; it also requires suspended sediment sources outside of the bed and horizontal transport into the bed.

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