Sediment grain-size characteristics observed on the Eel shelf have been analyzed using a wet-sieving technique that minimizes breakage of aggregates. At several sites on the 70-m isobath north of the river, where a 1995 flood layer attained a maximum thickness of about 9 cm, replicate box cores were collected on seven cruises during February 1995 to January 1997. These samples provide a unique opportunity to follow the evolution of a flood layer over a two-year period as it was modified and gradually buried. One month after the flood, a layer of tan-colored, high-porosity sediment with up to 96% of its particles in the size range of 0-20 ??m had accumulated on the central part of the shelf, 7-30 km north of the river and principally between the 50-m and 90-m isobaths. Substantial coarsening of this layer occurred between February 1995 and May 1995, particularly along the southern and the landward edge of the deposit in water depths of <70 m. The early stage of coarsening was probably caused by physical reworking of the surface 0.5-cm of the deposit and by addition of new sediment from shallower regions of the shelf. Temporal changes in inventories of several grain-size fractions show that physical processes continued to add coarse sediment to the flood layer after May 1995, but the large increases in thickness of the surface mixed layer could only be attributed to bioturbation by a recovering, or seasonally fluctuating, benthic community. The 1995 flood layer has evolved from exhibiting limited variability and normal grading (i:e., upward fining) to a layer that (1) shows significant spatial variability on scales from centimeters to 10's of meters, (2) is substantially coarser owing to additions of sediment from the inner shelf, (3) is inversely graded (i.e., coarsens upward), and (4) is intensely bioturbated to depths of 4-5 cm.
Additional publication details
Temporal and spatial variability of the sediment grain-size distribution on the Eel shelf: The flood layer of 1995