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Flocculation and de-flocculation of suspended matter in estuaries
Eisma, D. (1986). Flocculation and de-flocculation of suspended matter in estuaries. Neth. J. Sea Res. 20(2-3): 183-199
In: Netherlands Journal of Sea Research. Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ): Groningen; Den Burg. ISSN 0077-7579, more
Peer reviewed article  

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Keyword
    Brackish water

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Abstract
    Flocculation and de-flocculation have been observed in estuaries and the processes involved are discussed. Salt flocculation plays a minor role, if any. Flocs are mainly formed by a combination of two groups of processes: those bringing particles together, and those keeping them together. The first group is related to the flow conditions in the water and to organisms that clog particles into faeces or pseudofaeces or attach them to mucus. The second is related to the formation of sticky organic matter by a variety of organisms. Two main types of flocs have been observed: microflocs with a diameter up to 125 µm, and macroflocs with a maximum size of 3-4 mm. Microflocs consist of mineral particles and organic matter. Their formation is strongly related to the origin of the organic matter, to the organisms producing it, and to conditions of (temporary) deposition and resuspension. Mucopolysaccharides, produced by bacteria, algae and higher plants and mobilized from the suspended matter at low salinity, are important in glueing particles together. The microflocs, together with single mineral particles, are the basic building units of macroflocs. Macroflocs are fragile and formed in the water under conditions of viscous flow. Their maximum size is determined by turbulent shear, the size of the smallest turbulent whirls on the Kolmogorov scale being of the same order as the maximum floc size. They are easily destroyed during sampling. In estuaries the microflocs of fluvial origin are broken up by organisms consuming the organic matter in the microflocs, and reflocculated into new microflocs with newly formed organic matter of estuarine origin. The size of the microflocs, as seen under a microscope or determined by size analysis, is likely to be determined mainly by the binding strength of the organic matter in relation to the total mass of the floc and the physical disturbance produced during sampling and size analysis.

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