Impact of Patchy Vegetation on Wave and Runup Dynamics

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Virginia Tech

Coastal regions are vulnerable to various natural processes, ranging from normal waves to extreme events. Given the flourishing development and large population along coastlines, various measures have been taken to mitigate the water-induced damage. Nature-based coastal protection, especially vegetation, has attracted unprecedented studies over the past two decades. To enhance understanding of this subject, this dissertation evaluates the impact of patchy vegetation on wave and runup dynamics along coastlines. Selecting from a prototype in Dalehite Cove, Galveston Bay, TX, results from a Boussinesq model (COULWAVE) showed patchy vegetation reduced up to 75% mean shoreward current in the mound-channel wetland systems. These vegetation patches also reduced the primary circulation around mounds, with a power-form relation between circulation size and various parameters (i.e., bathymetry, incident wave and vegetated roughness). Substituting spectral waves for regular waves in the similar wetlands, more energy was transferred into the higher frequencies. The impact of patchy vegetation on wave energy was frequency- and space-dependent, with increased energy observed in specific harmonics and locations. Comparison with unvegetated horizontal bathymetry demonstrated that mound-channel bathymetry was the dominant factor in transferring and dissipating wave energy, while vegetation patches added a fair contribution. As for extreme events, such as tsunamis, laboratory experiments and numerical simulations were conducted to assess the effectiveness of patchy vegetation with various roughness levels, spacings and sizes. Overall, vegetation patches reduced the most destructive loads onshore by up to 80%. Within-patch roughness variation only caused uncertainty on the hydrodynamics around the seaward patches, while the mitigation of extreme loads was not undermined. A logarithmic relation was observed between the protected area from extreme loads and the vegetated coverage. These findings will fill the knowledge gap of hydrodynamics in the presence patchy vegetation, and improve the engineering practice of coastal protection using nature-based infrastructure.

Patchy Vegetation, Boussinesq Model, Wave Basin Experiment, Wave Dynamics