Aggregation of Particles, Settling Velocity of Mud Flocs A Review

  • W. Van Leussen


A review is given of aggregation phenomena for fine-grained sediments in estuarine systems. Besides other important factors it is shown that the aggregation of fine sediment particles, resulting in much larger settling velocities, plays an important role in the fine sediment dynamics in estuaries. Various mechanisms that may be responsible for the aggregation of the sediment particles (salt flocculation, organic aggregation, bioflocculation, pelletization) and the effects of organic and metallic coatings are reviewed. It is often not easy to determine the dominant mechanisms, as illustrated by discussions on this subject in studies on the Rhine Estuary. There is a strong need to gain more insight through analyses of field measurements in different estuaries.

Special attention is given to the role of turbulence in the aggregation of the fine sediment particles and the ordered structure of the aggregates (primary particles — flocculi — flocs — aggregates). It is shown that the properties of the suspended aggregates are significantly determined by the turbulence in the water in a narrow zone near the bed. The sediment particles are in a continuous process of aggregation and breakup. This quasi-equilibrium is shown to be influenced especially by the history of the aggregated particles in the flow system. The dimensions of the finest turbulent eddies are of great importance. The analogy for these processes in laboratory experiments and natural estuaries is demonstrated.

Finally, a review is given of settling velocities of fine sediment flocs and aggregates in estuaries and the instruments to measure them directly in nature. Special attention is given to the relatively rapid decrease in turbidity observed at slack water, resulting in a discrepancy between the settling velocities measured by in situ instruments and those derived from developments in concentration profiles. The chapter concludes with recommendations for future research.


Suspended Sediment Concentration Settling Velocity Turbidity Maximum Cohesive Sediment Floc Size 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • W. Van Leussen
    • 1
  1. 1.Estuaries and Seas DivisionDelft HydraulicsDelftThe Netherlands

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