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A Sr-Nd isotopic study of sand-sized sediment provenance and transport for the San Francisco Bay coastal system

November 1, 2013

A diverse suite of geochemical tracers, including 87Sr/86Sr and 143Nd/144Nd isotope ratios, the rare earth elements (REEs), and select trace elements were used to determine sand-sized sediment provenance and transport pathways within the San Francisco Bay coastal system. This study complements a large interdisciplinary effort (Barnard et al., 2012) that seeks to better understand recent geomorphic change in a highly urbanized and dynamic estuarine-coastal setting. Sand-sized sediment provenance in this geologically complex system is important to estuarine resource managers and was assessed by examining the geographic distribution of this suite of geochemical tracers from the primary sources (fluvial and rock) throughout the bay, adjacent coast, and beaches. Due to their intrinsic geochemical nature, 143Nd/144Nd isotopic ratios provide the most resolved picture of where sediment in this system is likely sourced and how it moves through this estuarine system into the Pacific Ocean. For example, Nd isotopes confirm that the predominant source of sand-sized sediment to Suisun Bay, San Pablo Bay, and Central Bay is the Sierra Nevada Batholith via the Sacramento River, with lesser contributions from the Napa and San Joaquin Rivers. Isotopic ratios also reveal hot-spots of local sediment accumulation, such as the basalt and chert deposits around the Golden Gate Bridge and the high magnetite deposits of Ocean Beach. Sand-sized sediment that exits San Francisco Bay accumulates on the ebb-tidal delta and is in part conveyed southward by long-shore currents. Broadly, the geochemical tracers reveal a complex story of multiple sediment sources, dynamic intra-bay sediment mixing and reworking, and eventual dilution and transport by energetic marine processes. Combined geochemical results provide information on sediment movement into and through San Francisco Bay and further our understanding of how sustained anthropogenic activities which limit sediment inputs to the system (e.g., dike and dam construction) as well as those which directly remove sediments from within the Bay, such as aggregate mining and dredging, can have long-lasting effects

Publication Year 2013
Title A Sr-Nd isotopic study of sand-sized sediment provenance and transport for the San Francisco Bay coastal system
DOI 10.1016/j.margeo.2013.01.002
Authors Robert J. Rosenbauer, Amy C. Foxgrover, James R. Hein, Peter W. Swarzenski
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Marine Geology
Index ID 70112512
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center; San Francisco Bay-Delta