Assessment of Irish Saltmarshes
This project aims to advance our understanding of Irish salt marshes (in terms of geomorphology, composition and also ecosystem service provision) to complement the already large body of knowledge in northwest European countries (e.g. UK, the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany). It also aims to inform coastal management in Ireland and to facilitate a shift away from a focus on ‘hard’ engineering towards more nature-based coastal solutions (in particular for flood risk management). An improved understanding of the variation in composition and morphology of Irish marshes, and the hydrodynamic settings within which they flourish is key if we want to successfully implement nature-based coastal solutions to the hazards posed by climate change.
This project focuses particularly on the links between marsh morphology, substrate composition and hydrodynamic forcing at four contrasting (in terms of hydrodynamic setting and substrate composition) marshes in Ireland. It will do so by measuring key parameters of marsh composition (vegetation type, substrate organic content and particle size), determining marsh elevation and slope and also by monitoring inundation frequency and wave characteristics near the marsh edge. This data will be assessed alongside longer-term (decadal) measurements of marsh edge change and surface and belowground expansion or contraction.
Response of an Anthropogenically Initiated Urban Barrier Island to Past and Future Environmental Change
Large-scale sedimentary features, such as barrier islands, may act to protect urban coasts from climate change impacts. An adequate understanding of, and ability to predict, geomorphological processes that govern the long-term natural and/or human induced changes of such landforms in a highly managed context is thus essential to the successful mitigation of future urban coastal flood risk. This project will contribute to a better understanding of how the semi-natural North Bull Island offshore of Dublin, Ireland, has been responding to physical drivers, both ‘natural’ (waves, tides, climate), and human (management intervention and human use) drivers over the past decades.
Such knowledge is key to exploring how the island may respond to a range of future climate and human intervention scenarios and how such change may alter the delivery of ecosystem services presently derived from the beach, dune, salt marsh and intertidal habitats present on the island. In a larger, global context, this case study will allow lessons to be learnt for the potential future, context-dependent incorporation of dynamic coastal depositional features as elements of urban coastal climate change adaptation.
Comparison of Natural and Managed Coastal Wetland Restoration
Restoration of coastal wetlands occurs naturally (e.g., via breaching) or through planned management schemes. Such restoration plans should be underpinned by consideration of ecosystem services, including flood defence, increased biodiversity, community health benefits and carbon sequestration. Broadly, due to greater rates of carbon burial and lower mineralisation compared with terrestrial environments, coastal wetlands are commonly considered as carbon sinks. Saltmarsh sediments accumulate carbon, the rate of which is regulated by relative sea level rise. It is therefore important to understand how present functioning will alter through time and under changing hydrodynamic forcing.
Monitoring of restoration sites commonly focuses on ecology, therefore, this project will look at the hydrogeomorphological aspect, with the aim to assess site suitability for restoration and understand the response of restoration sites to future climate scenarios. Comparing natural and managed sites, this project will assess the interaction and variation of biophysical and hydrological processes, such as current carbon stocks and plant productivity, utilising field monitoring of water levels, waves and sediment transport, alongside ecological surveys.