Fine sediment transport by tidal asymmetry in the high-concentrated Ems River: indications for a regime shift in response to channel deepening
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This paper describes an analysis of the observed up-river transport of fine sediments in the Ems River, Germany/Netherlands, using a 1DV POINT MODEL, accounting for turbulence-induced flocculation and sediment-induced buoyancy destruction. From this analysis, it is inferred that the net up-river transport is mainly due to an asymmetry in vertical mixing, often referred to as internal tidal asymmetry. It is argued that the large stratification observed during ebb should be attributed to a profound interaction between turbulence-induced flocculation and sediment-induced buoyancy destruction, as a result of which the river became an efficient trap for fine suspended sediment. Moreover, an asymmetry in flocculation processes was found, such that during flood relative large flocs are transported at relative large flow velocity high in the water column, whereas during ebb, the larger flocs are transported at smaller velocities close to the bed—this asymmetry contributes to the large trapping mentioned above. The internal tidal asymmetry and asymmetry in flocculation processes are both driven by the pronounced asymmetry in flow velocities, with flood velocities almost twice the ebb values. It is further argued that this efficient trapping is the result of a continuous deepening of the river, and occurs when concentrations in the river become typically a few hundred mg/l; this was the case during the 1990 survey analyzed in this paper. We also speculate that a second regime shift did occur in the river when fluid mud layers become so thick that net transport rates are directly related to the asymmetry in flow velocity itself, probably still in conjunction with internal asymmetry as well. This would yield an efficient mechanism to transport large amounts of fine sediment far up-river, as currently observed.