Oceanography The Official Magazine of
The Oceanography Society
Volume 30 Issue 03

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Volume 30, No. 3
Pages 22 - 33

How Tidal Processes Impact the Transfer of Sediment from Source to Sink: Mekong River Collaborative Studies

Andrea S. Ogston Mead A. AllisonRobin L. McLachlanDaniel J. NowackiJ. Drew Stephens
Article Abstract

Significant sediment transformation and trapping occur along the tidal and estuarine reaches of large rivers, complicating sediment source signals transmitted to the coastal ocean. The collaborative Mekong Tropical Delta Study explored the tidally influenced portion of the Mekong River to investigate processes that impact mud- and sand-sized sediment transport and deposition associated with varying fluvial and marine influences. Researchers participating in this 2014–2015 project found that as sand and mud progress down the tidal portion of the river, sands in suspension can settle during reduced or slack flows as river discharge becomes progressively more affected by tides in the seaward direction. Consequently, deposits on the tidal river bed are connected to sand transport in the channel. In contrast, fine mud particles remain in suspension until they reach an interface zone where waters are still fresh, but the downstream saline estuary nonetheless impacts the flows. In this interface zone, as within the estuary, fine particles tend to settle, draping the sand beds with mud and limiting the connection between the bed and suspended sand. In the Mekong system, the interface and estuarine zones migrate along the distributary channels seasonally, resulting in variable trapping dynamics and channel bed texture. Therefore, the signature of fluvial-sediment discharge is altered on its path to the coastal ocean, and the disconnected mud and sand supply functions at the river mouth should result in distinct offshore depositional signatures.


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