Suspended sediment fluxes in a tidal wetland: Measurement, controlling factors, and error analysis

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Suspended sediment fluxes to and from tidal wetlands are of increasing concern because of habitat restoration efforts, wetland sustainability as sea level rises, and potential contaminant accumulation. We measured water and sediment fluxes through two channels on Browns Island, at the landward end of San Francisco Bay, United States, to determine the factors that control sediment fluxes on and off the island. In situ instrumentation was deployed between October 10 and November 13, 2003. Acoustic Doppler current profilers and the index velocity method were employed to calculate water fluxes. Suspended sediment concentrations (SSC) were determined with optical sensors and cross-sectional water sampling. All procedures were analyzed for their contribution to total error in the flux measurement. The inability to close the water balance and determination of constituent concentration were identified as the main sources of error; total error was 27% for net sediment flux. The water budget for the island was computed, with an unaccounted input of 0.20 m3s−1 (22% of mean inflow), after considering channel flow, change in water storage, evapotranspiration, and precipitation. The net imbalance may be a combination of groundwater seepage, overland flow, and flow through minor channels. Change of island water storage, caused by local variations in water surface elevation, dominated the tidally averaged water flux. These variations were mainly caused by wind and barometric pressure change, which alter regional water levels throughout the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. Peak instantaneous ebb flow was 35% greater than peak flood flow, indicating an ebbdominant system, though dominance varied with the spring-neap cycle. SSC were controlled by wind-wave resuspension adjacent to the island and local tidal currents that mobilized sediment from the channel bed. During neap tides sediment was imported onto the island but during spring tides sediment was exported because the main channel became ebb dominant. Over the 34-d monitoring period 14,000 kg of suspended sediment were imported through the two channels. The water imbalance may affect the sediment balance if the unmeasured water transport pathways are capable of transporting large amounts of sediment. We estimate a maximum of 2,800 kg of sediment may have been exported through unmeasured pathways, giving a minimum ent import of 11,200 kg. Sediment flux measurements provide insight on tidal to fortnightly marsh sedimentation processes, especially in complex systems where sedimentation is spatially and temporally variable.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Suspended sediment fluxes in a tidal wetland: Measurement, controlling factors, and error analysis
Series title Estuaries
DOI 10.1007/BF02696011
Volume 28
Issue 6
Year Published 2005
Language English
Publisher Springer
Contributing office(s) California Water Science Center
Description 11 p.
First page 812
Last page 822
Country United States
State California
Other Geospatial Browns Island, San Francisco Bay
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N
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