Salt Marsh Accretion and Storm Tide Variation: an Example from a Barrier Island in the North Sea

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Peer-Reviewed Article

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We reconstruct past accretion rates of a salt marsh on the island of Sylt, Germany, using measurements of the radioisotopes ²¹⁰Pb and ¹³⁰Cs, as well as historical aerial photographs. Results from three cores indicate accretion rates varying between 1 and 16 mm year⁻¹. Comparisons with tide gauge data show that high accretion rates during the 1980s and 1990s coincide with periods of increased storm activity. We identify a critical inundation height of 18 cm below which the strength of a storm seems to positively influence salt marsh accretion rates and above which the frequency of storms becomes the major factor. In addition to sea level rise, we conclude that in low marsh zones subject to higher inundation levels, mean storm strength is the major factor affecting marsh accretion, whereas in high marsh zones with lower inundation levels, it is storm frequency that impacts marsh accretion.