Physical environmental factors, including sediment characteristics, inundation time, tidal currents and wind waves, likely to influence the structure of the benthic community at meso-scales (1-100 m) were characterised for a sandflat off Wiroa Island (Manukau Harbour, New Zealand). In a 500 x 250 m study site, sediment characteristics and bed topography were mostly homogenous apart from patches of low-relief ridges and runnels. Field measurements and hydrodynamic modelling portray a complex picture of sediment or particulate transport on the intertidal flat, involving interactions between the larger scale tidal processes and the smaller scale wave dynamics (1-4 s; 1-15 m). Peak tidal currents in isolation are incapable of eroding bottom sediments, but in combination with near-bed orbital currents generated by only very small wind waves, sediment transport can be initiated. Work done on the bed integrated over an entire tidal cycle by prevailing wind waves is greatest on the elevated and flatter slopes of the study site, where waves shoal over a wider surf zone and water depths remain shallow e enough for wave-orbital currents to disturb the bed. The study also provided physical descriptors quantifying static and hydrodynamic (tidal and wave) factors which were used in companion studies on ecological spatial modelling of bivalve distributions and micro-scale sediment reworking and transport.
Additional Publication Details
Characterisation of physical environmental factors on an intertidal sandflat, Manukau Harbour, New Zealand