Wind‐wave attack is the fundamental cause of erosion of salt marsh boundaries. Tidal forcing acts as a proxy determining at which elevation waves pound against the marsh edge and conditioning the propagation and transformation of wave trains as they move toward these boundaries. The objective of the present work is to evaluate, through analysis of the results of a numerical model, the effect of wave action on marsh boundaries as a function of tidal elevation and wave height for different edge configurations. In order to link numerical simulations to field conditions, the model inputs are based on topographical and hydrodynamical surveys conducted at a study site at the Virginia Coast Reserve (VCR), VA. Model results show that the wave thrust on the marsh scarp strongly depends on tidal level. The thrust increases with tidal elevation until the marsh is submerged and then rapidly decreases. The wave thrust is maximum for a vertical scarp and minimum for a terraced scarp. Similarly, wave energy dissipation is maximized just above the marsh platform elevation, when wave reflection is reduced and wave breaking occurs at the marsh edge.
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