Transport of particulate organic material can impact watershed sediment and nutrient budgets and can alter the geomorphologic evolution of shallow aquatic environments. Prediction of organic aggregate (“floc”) transport in these environments requires knowledge of how hydraulics and biota affect the entrainment, settling, and aggregation of particles. This study evaluated the aggregation and field transport dynamics of organic floc from a low-gradient floodplain wetland with flow-parallel ridges and sloughs in the Florida Everglades. Floc dynamics were evaluated in a rotating annular flume and in situ in the field. Under present managed conditions in the Everglades, floc is not entrained by mean flows but is suspended via biological production in the water column and bioturbation. Aggregation was a significant process affecting Everglades floc at high flume flow velocities (7.0 cm s-1) and during recovery from high flow; disaggregation was not significant for the tested flows. During moderate flows when floc dynamics are hydrodynamically controlled, it is possible to model floc transport using a single “operative floc diameter” that accurately predicts fluxes downstream and to the bed. In contrast, during high flows and recovery from high flows, aggregation dynamics should be simulated. When entrained by flow in open-water sloughs, Everglades floc will be transported downstream in multiple deposition and reentrainment events but will undergo net settling when transported onto ridges of emergent vegetation. We hypothesize that net transport of material from open to vegetated areas during high flows is critical for forming and maintaining distinctive topographic patterning in the Everglades and other low-gradient floodplains.
Additional Publication Details
Predicting organic floc transport dynamics in shallow aquatic ecosystems: insights from the field, laboratory, and numerical modeling.