Sediment transfer and accumulation in two contrasting salt marsh/mudflat systems: the Seine estuary (France) and the Medway estuary (UK)
Understanding the dynamics of fine sediment transport across the upper intertidal zone is critical in managing the erosion and accretion of intertidal areas, and in managed realignment/estuarine habitat recreation strategies. This paper examines the transfer of sediments between salt marsh and mudflat environments in two contrasting macrotidal estuaries: the Seine (France) and the Medway (UK), using data collected during two joint field seasons undertaken by the Anglo-French RIMEW project (Rives-Manche Estuary Watch). High-resolution ADCP, Altimeter, OBS and ASM measurements from mudflat and marsh surface environments have been combined with sediment trap data to examine short-term sediment transport processes under spring tide and storm flow conditions. In addition, the longer-term accumulation of sediment in each salt marsh system has been examined via radiometric dating of sediment cores. In the Seine, rapid sediment accumulation and expansion of salt marsh areas, and subsequent loss of open intertidal mudflats, is a major problem, and the data collected here indicate a distinct net landward flux of sediments into the marsh interior. Suspended sediment fluxes are much higher than in the Medway estuary (averaging 0.09 g/m3/s), and vertical accumulation rates at the salt marsh/mudflat boundary exceed 3 cm/y. Suspended sediment data collected during storm surge conditions indicate that significant in-wash of fine sediments into the marsh interior can occur during (and following) these high-magnitude events. In contrast to the Seine, the Medway is undergoing erosion and general loss of salt marsh areas. Suspended sediment fluxes are of the order of 0.03 g/m3/s, and the marsh system here has much lower rates of vertical accretion (sediment accumulation rates are ca. 4 mm/y). Current velocity data for the Medway site indicate higher velocities on the ebb tide than occur on the flood tide, which may be sufficient to remobilise sediments deposited on the previous tide and so force net removal of material from the marsh.
KeywordsSuspended sediment Sedimentation 210Pb 137Cs Medway Seine Estuary
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