Oceanographic measurements and sediment samples were collected during the summer of 2006 as part of a multi-year study of coastal circulation and the fate of terrigenous sediment on coral reefs in Hanalei Bay, Kauai. The goal of this study was to better understand sediment dynamics in a coral reef-lined embayment where winds, ocean surface waves, and river floods are important processes. During a summer period that was marked by two wave events and one river flood, we documented significant differences in sediment trap collection rates and the composition, grain size, and magnitude of sediment transported in the bay. Sediment trap collection rates were well correlated with combined wave-current near-bed shear stresses during the non-flood periods but were not correlated during the flood. The flood's delivery of fine-grained sediment to the bay initially caused high turbidity and sediment collection rates off the river mouth but the plume dispersed relatively quickly. Over the next month, the flood deposit was reworked by mild waves and currents and the fine-grained terrestrial sediment was advected around the bay and collected in sediment traps away from the river mouth, long after the turbid surface plume was gone. The reworked flood deposits, due to their longer duration of influence and proximity to the seabed, appear to pose a greater long-term impact to benthic coral reef communities than the flood plumes themselves. The results presented here display how spatial and temporal differences in hydrodynamic processes, which result from variations in reef morphology and orientation, cause substantial variations in the deposition, residence time, resuspension, and advection of both reef-derived and fluvial sediment over relatively short spatial scales in a coral reef embayment.
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Sedimentation processes in a coral reef embayment: Hanalei Bay, Kauai