Surface elevation change and susceptibility of coastal wetlands to sea level rise in Liaohe Delta, China

Research paper by Guo-dong Wang, Ming Wang, Xian-guo Lu, Ming Jiang

Indexed on: 21 Jul '16Published on: 20 Jul '16Published in: Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science


The Liaohe Delta in China is an ecologically and commercially important wetland system under threat from sea level rise and marsh subsidence. Sediments deposited in coastal marshes could offer wetlands a potentially important means for adjusting surface elevation with rising sea level, yet coastal wetland stability in Liaohe Delta is not well understood due to limited data from long-term experiments. In this study, wetland surface elevation and vertical accretion were measured from 2011 to 2015 using a surface elevation table (SET) and feldspar marker horizons in two Phragmites and two Suaeda marshes receiving Liaohe River water. The analysis shows that the Phragmites marshes exhibited higher rates of marsh accretion and elevation change than the Suaeda marshes. The two Phragmites marsh sites had average surface elevation change rates at 8.8 and 9.3 mm yr−1, vertical accretion at 17.4 and 17.6 mm yr−1, and shallow subsidence at 8.6 and 8.3 mm yr−1. The average rates of elevation change, vertical accretion, and shallow subsidence at two Suaeda marsh sites were 5.8 and 6.3 mm yr−1, 13.6 and 14.8 mm yr−1, and 7.8 and 8.5 mm yr−1, respectively. The trends suggest that coastal marshes in Liaohe Delta are experiencing changes in average soil elevation that range from a net increase of 0.3 mm y−1 to 6.9 mm y−1 relative to averaged sea level rise in Bohai Sea reported by the 2016 State Oceanic Administration People's Republic of China projection (2.4–5.5 mm y−1), which indicated that the four wetland sites would adjust to the sea level rise and even continue to gain elevation, especially for the Phragmites sites. Nevertheless, the vulnerability of coastal wetlands in Liaohe Delta need further assessment considering the accelerated sea level rise, the high rate of subsidence, and the declining sediment delivery owing to anthropogenic activities such as dam constructions in the river basin.

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