Vertical Accretion Trends in Australian Tidal Wetlands

Publication Name

Estuaries and Coasts


Australian tidal wetlands differ in important respects to better studied northern hemisphere systems, an artefact stable to falling sea levels over millennia. A network of Surface Elevation Table-Marker Horizon (SET-MH) monitoring stations has been established across the continent to assess accretionary and elevation responses to sea-level rise. This network currently consists of 289 SET-MH installations across all mainland Australian coastal states and territories. SET-MH installations are mostly in mangrove forests but also cover a range of tidal marsh and supratidal forest ecosystems. Mangroves were found to have higher rates of accretion and elevation gain than all the other categories of tidal wetland, a result attributable to their lower position within the tidal frame (promoting higher rates of accretion) higher biomass (with potentially higher rates of root growth), and lower rates of organic decomposition. While Australian tidal marshes in general show an increase in elevation over time, in 80% of locations, this was lower than the rate of sea-level rise. High rates of accretion did not translate into high rates of elevation gain, because the rate of subsidence in the shallow substrate increased with higher accretion rates (r 2 = 0.87). The Australian SET-MH network, already in many locations spanning two decades of measurement, provides an important benchmark against which to assess wetland responses to accelerating sea-level rise in the decades ahead.

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