Document Type



Virginia Institute of Marine Science

VIMS Department/Program

Center for Coastal Resources Management (CCRM)

Publication Date



Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences




Observations suggest that the existence of tidal marsh can alter the oxygen and nutrient dynamics in adjacent water bodies, but assessing the impacts of large tidal marshes on an estuary is challenging. In this study, we use a modeling approach to investigate the roles of tidal marshes on the estuarine biochemical processes. The marsh model, which simulates the ecological functions of marshes at seasonal and annual time-scales, is embedded inside an unstructured-grid three-dimensional hydrodynamic and eutrophication model (SCHISM-ICM). This modeling system simulates the growth and metabolism of the tidal marshes and links biological processes to nutrient dynamics in the water column and sediment. This model dynamically simulates nutrient recycling and physical transport of the materials between marshes and open water through wetting-drying processes. This coupled model system is validated and successfully applied to the York River Estuary. Model results suggest that tidal marshes influence the local diurnal dissolved oxygen (DO) cycle by exporting dissolved organic carbon and high sediment oxygen demand in the marsh system through the tidal exchange. The high deposition rates of organics and diurnal DO cycle enhance the sediment release of phosphorus. On the other hand, marshes tend to decrease dissolved inorganic nitrogen in the water column by settling particulate nutrients and enhancing the denitrification process. The study demonstrates that tidal marshes exert substantial impacts on the estuarine biochemical processes. The developed tidal marsh model enhances eutrophication modeling and advances the understanding of the feedback effects between marsh biogeochemistry and estuarine eutrophication processes on a systemic scale.