The Effect of Simulated Mangrove Forest Width on Shoreline Stabilization at Multiple Tidal Water Levels
Austin, James Edward
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Red mangrove (Rhizophora mangle) forests protect hundreds of miles of Florida’s shorelines from erosion and wave damage associated with severe storms and daily wave action. Shorelines are often protected from erosion with man-made structures such as seawalls, revetments, and breakwaters. However, these man-made structures disrupt natural ecosystems and cause scour and erosion in surrounding areas. The presence of mangroves not only prevents erosion but shelters marine life and filters water, promoting ecological health. Mangroves are now being implemented for wave energy reduction and shoreline stabilization, but there is little quantitative data about the precise sediment transport induced or prevented by mangroves in Florida. This study simulates shoreline sediment transport through mangroves in a Florida estuary using average wave conditions and annual water level fluctuations to determine necessary widths for shoreline stabilization. A dowel system was verified as a physical representation of live red mangroves for wave dissipation effects. The sediment transport in the laboratory simulated the cross-shore sediment transport for coastlines with existing mangroves and similar estuarine parameters. Knowing the effective forest width for shoreline stabilization at multiple seasonal water levels will aid implementation of mangroves as living shorelines in areas such as the IRL where multiple water level dynamics occur. Planting the proper forest width will stabilize the shoreline and ensure the plant’s survival. Knowing the minimum width needed will also allow the plant to be installed efficiently over a large amount of shoreline. Use of mangroves for shoreline stabilization and living breakwaters will be beneficial to the plant itself and the health of tropical ecosystem.