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Evaluation of sediment dynamics in coastal systems via short-lived radioisotopes
Giffin, D.; Corbett, D.R. (2003). Evaluation of sediment dynamics in coastal systems via short-lived radioisotopes. J. Mar. Syst. 42(3-4): 83-96.
In: Journal of Marine Systems. Elsevier: Tokyo; Oxford; New York; Amsterdam. ISSN 0924-7963, more
Peer reviewed article  

Also published as
  • Giffin, D.; Corbett, D.R. (2003). Evaluation of sediment dynamics in coastal systems via short-lived radioisotopes, in: Runcie, J.W. et al. (Ed.) Nutrient dynamics in coastal ecosystems - linking physical and biological processes. Journal of Marine Systems, 42(3-4): pp. 83-96., more

Available in  Authors 
Document type: Conference paper

    Benthic currents; Coastal zone; Estuaries; Nutrients (mineral); Radioisotopes; Resuspended sediments; Sediments; ANW, USA, North Carolina, Neuse Estuary [Marine Regions]; ANW, USA, North Carolina, Pamlico Estuary [Marine Regions]; Marine
Author keywords
    sediments; nutrients; radioisotope; resuspension; estuary; benthic flux

Authors  Top 
  • Giffin, D.
  • Corbett, D.R., correspondent

    The Neuse and Pamlico River Estuaries are shallow, dynamic systems that have been plagued with symptoms of eutrophication over the past two decades. Extensive research has been conducted over the last 5–10 years to better understand the complex nutrient dynamics of these systems. However, most of these studies have concentrated on nutrient cycling in the water column. Only recently have studies focused on the benthic environment, and most sediment studies have neglected the dynamic nature of the benthos, focusing instead on diffusion as the dominant transport process delivering nutrients to the water column. Although diffusion of nutrients across the sediment–water interface may be important during quiescent periods of sediment deposition and short-term storage, wind events associated with storms throughout the year will resuspend newly deposited sediments resulting in the advective transport of sediment porewater, rich with nitrogen, phosphorus and carbon, into the water column. Sediment resuspension may increase water column nutrient concentrations, and therefore present estimates of nutrient and carbon inputs from the sediments may be too low.

    This study evaluated short-term sediment dynamics of natural resuspension events and deposition rates in these two estuaries with the use of short-lived radioisotopes, 7Be, 137Cs, and 234Th. Sediment cores at nine sites in the estuaries have been collected at least bimonthly since May 2001. In general, tracers indicate a depositional environment with minimal episodes of removal. The largest sediment removal occurred in August 2001 in the Neuse River where an estimated 2.2 cm of sediment were removed over the previous 6-week period. This removal mechanism essentially advects porewater nutrients into the water column. Calculated advective fluxes of ammonium and phosphate based on this resuspension event were approximately six times greater than the average diffusive flux measured in the same general area of the river. Longer-term deposition rates, using 137Cs, ranged from 1.4 to greater than 5 mm year−1, comparable to earlier studies in the area and agree well with the interpretation of the short-lived tracers. In addition, meteorological (wind speed and direction), turbidity, and bottom current data were collected and indicated that these resuspension events occur when passing fronts developed wind speeds in excess of 4 m s−1 with rapid shifts in direction. Currents exhibited estuarine flow reversals associated with wind events and apparently have some control over the sediment removal processes.

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