25 Oct 2023
 | 25 Oct 2023
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal ESSD.

Laboratory data linking the reconfiguration of and drag on individual plants to the velocity structure and wave dissipation over a meadow of salt marshes under waves with and without current

Xiaoxia Zhang and Heidi Nepf

Abstract. Salt marshes provide valuable ecosystem services, which are influenced by their interaction with current and waves. On the one hand, current and waves exert hydrodynamic force on salt marsh plants, which shapes the distribution of species within the marsh. On the other hand, the resistance produced by the plants can shape the flow structure, turbulent intensity, and the wave dissipation over the canopy. Because marsh plants are flexible structures, their reconfiguration modifies the drag felt by the plants and the flow. While several previous studies have considered the flexibility of the stem, few studies have considered the leaf component, which has been shown to contribute the majority of plant resistance. This paper reports a unique dataset that includes laboratory measurements of both the force on an individual plant and the flow structure and wave energy dissipation over a meadow of plants. In the individual plant experiment, the motion of the plant and plant drag, free surface displacement and velocity profile were measured. The individual plant experiments considered both a live marsh plant (Spartina alterniflora) and a mimic consisting of ten leaves attached to a central stem. For the meadow experiment, velocity profiles were measured both upstream and within the meadow, and free surface displacement was measured along the model marsh plant meadow with high spatial and temporal resolution. These experiments used five water depths (covering both submerged and emergent conditions), three wave periods (from long wave to short waves), seven wave heights (from linear to nonlinear waves), six current conditions (including pure current, pure wave, and combined current and waves). In summary, there are 102 individual plant tests and 58 meadow tests. The drag, free surface displacement, and velocity are reported in SMCW.mat file including the raw data, the phase average, and statistic values. The link to the plant motion videos is also provided. This dataset provides high quality measurements that can be used to develop and validate models of plant motion, hydrodynamic drag on individual plants, vegetation-generated turbulence, the evolution of flow structure through a meadow, and the transformation and dissipation of waves over natural salt marshes. The dataset is available from figshare with detailed instructions for reuse (; Zhang and Nepf, 2023a).

Xiaoxia Zhang and Heidi Nepf

Status: open (until 30 Dec 2023)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on essd-2023-372', Francesco Paladini de Mendoza, 28 Nov 2023 reply

Xiaoxia Zhang and Heidi Nepf

Data sets

A dataset on the hydrodynamic force on individual salt marsh plants and the flow structure and wave dissipation over a meadow of plants under waves with and without current Xiaoxia Zhang and Heidi Nepf

Video supplement

Salt marsh dynamic motion videos under waves with and without current Xiaoxia Zhang and Heidi Nepf

Xiaoxia Zhang and Heidi Nepf


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Short summary
This study measured the wave-induced plant drag, flow structure, turbulent intensity, and wave energy attenuation in the presence of salt marsh. We showed that the leaves contribute to most of the total plant drag and wave dissipation. Plant resistance significantly reshapes velocity profile and enhance turbulence intensity. Adding current obviously impact the plants' wave decay capacity. The dataset can be reused to develop and calibrate marsh-flow theoretical and numerical models.