Delivery and dispersal of fluvial sediment in Hanalei Bay, Kaua’i, Hawaii, have important implications for the health of local coral reefs. The reef community in Hanalei Bay represents a relatively healthy ecosystem. However, the reefs are periodically stressed by storm waves, and increases in sediment and dissolved substances from the Hanalei River have the potential to cause additional stress. Increased turbidity and sedimentation on corals during Hanalei River floods that occur in seasons of low wave energy, when sediment would not be readily remobilized and advected out of the bay, could affect the health and sustainability of coral reefs and the many associated species.
Measurements of short-lived isotopes 7Be and 137Cs in sediment cores have been used to trace the thickness and distribution of terrestrial sediment in Hanalei Bay, in order to assess spatial and temporal patterns of sediment deposition and remobilization relative to coral-reef locations. A third isotope, 210Pb, derived primarily from seawater, provides additional information about recent sedimentary history. Isotope profiles and observations of sedimentary facies from cores collected at multiple locations in June 2005, and again in August 2005, indicate the presence of recent fluvial sediment and organic debris in the east part of the bay near the mouth of the Hanalei River. Away from the immediate vicinity of the river mouth, sediment in the uppermost 1 m below the sea floor had not retained a significant quantity of fluvial sediment within the eight months prior to either sampling effort. During the study interval in summer 2005 the Hanalei River had no major floods and there was relatively little sediment input to the bay. Sediment away from the river mouth was dominated by carbonate sand, although some terrestrial sediment was present in sub-sea-floor horizons. Sedimentary facies and isotope inventories throughout the bay showed substantial spatial heterogeneity.
Sediment cores will be collected again at the same sites discussed here during early and late summer 2006. If possible, additional sites will be sampled in the Black Hole depocenter near the river mouth. Major floods in winter and spring 2006 are expected to leave a significant new sediment signal in the bay that should be detected in summer 2006.
- Digital Object Identifier: 10.3133/ofr20061125
- Source: USGS Publications Warehouse (indexId: ofr20061125)