Hydrodynamics of mangrove swamps and their coastal waters

  • Wolanski E
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Mangrove swamps help control the tidal hydrodynamics of many tropical estuaries. They generate an asymmetry of the tidal currents in both the tidal creeks and the mangrove swamps. This results in self-scouring of the tidal channels. Mangrove land reclamation results in siltation of the channel. Mangrove swamps control the flushing rates of the estuaries through the lateral trapping effect. Lateral trapping leads to the aggregation of mangrove litter along slick lines. Evapotranspiration plays a role in the hot dry season by forming a salinity maximum zone which isolates the estuary from the coastal waters for several months of the year. In the absence of runoff, evapotranspiration in the hot dry season generates an inverse estuarine circulation which can trap high salinity mangrove water, and mangrove detritus, along the bottom of a mangrove creek. This bottom layer can become anaerobic. Groundwater flow appears to play a key role in the nutrient budget of mangrove creeks, exporting salt left behind by evapotranspiration, and inhibiting runoff after rainfall. Particulates and dissolved nutrients outwelled from mangrove swamps to coastal waters are retained in a coastal boundary layer. This coastal boundary layer water can be trapped along the shore for long periods if the coast is straight and mangrove-fringed and the coastal waters are shallow. Headlands inhibit coastal trapping because they enhance mixing. Nutrient-rich coastal boundary layer waters may be ejected offshore as tidal jets peeling off headlands and locally enriching offshore waters.

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