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Seasonal controls on sediment delivery and hydrodynamics in a vegetated tidally influenced interdistributary island

June 14, 2021

River deltas are maintained by a continuous supply of terrestrial sediments that provide critical land building material to help sustain and protect vulnerable ecological communities and serve as natural storm protection barriers. Local hydrodynamics are important in determining the degree to which fluvial sediments are removed from the water column and retained on the delta complex. During 2014, we measured hydrodynamics and sediment transport characteristics at one of the world's most rapidly prograding deltas, the Wax Lake delta in Louisiana, USA. We observed waves to be the dominant source of bottom stress for 70% of our observations. Sediment concentration tended to increase with shear stress, but only after stresses exceeded 0.01–0.02 Pa. Significant wave height and bottom stress were substantially reduced after June, when the emergence of American lotus (Nelumbo lutea) formed a dense canopy over the intertidal regions of the island splay. Hydrodynamics during these summer vegetated conditions were much more favorable to floc formation, and by extension particle settling, as shown by trends in the Kolmogorov microscale parameter over the course of the measurement campaign. Together, these findings suggest that the timing between peak river discharge and the emergence of vegetation may have a strong influence on rates of progradation in seasonally vegetated delta splays, whereby sediments delivered by flood events that extend late into summer may be governed by hydrodynamics that favor particle deposition, whereas those delivered prior to the summer may be more prone to remain in suspension and bypass the delta complex.

Publication Year 2021
Title Seasonal controls on sediment delivery and hydrodynamics in a vegetated tidally influenced interdistributary island
DOI 10.1029/2020JC016146
Authors Richard Styles, Gregg Snedden, S. Jarrell Smith, Duncan B. Bryant, Brandon M. Boyd, Joseph Z. Gailani, Brady Couvillion, Edward Race
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans
Index ID 70222470
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Wetland and Aquatic Research Center