|Estuarine physical processes research: some recent studies and progress|
Uncles, R.J. (2002). Estuarine physical processes research: some recent studies and progress. Est., Coast. and Shelf Sci. 55(6): 829-856
In: Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science. Academic Press: London; New York. ISSN 0272-7714, more
Brackishwater environment; Coastal morphology; Coastal waters; Data acquisition; Estuaries; Estuarine dynamics; Estuarine sedimentation; Hydrodynamics; In situ measurements; Literature reviews; Model studies; Mud flats; Organism morphology; Remote sensing; Resuspended sediments; Sediment properties; Sediment transport; Transport; Turbidity; Water column; Marine
The literature on estuarine physical studies is vast, diverse and contains many valuable case studies in addition to pure, process-based research. This essay is an attempt to summarize both some of the more recent studies that have been undertaken during the last several years, as well as some of the trends in research direction and progress that they represent. The topics covered include field and theoretical studies on hydrodynamics, turbulence, salt and fine sediment transport and morphology. The development and ease-of-application of numerical and analytical models and technical software has been essential for much of the progress, allowing the interpretation of large amounts of data and assisting with the understanding of complex processes. The development of instrumentation has similarly been essential for much of the progress with field studies. From a process viewpoint, much more attention is now being given to interpreting intratidal behaviour, including the effects of tidal straining and suspended fine sediment on water column stratification, stability and turbulence generation and dissipation. Remote sensing from satellites and aircraft, together with fast sampling towed instruments and high frequency radar now provide unique, frequently high resolution views of spatial variability, including currents, frontal and plume phenomena, and tidal and wave-generated turbidity. Observations of fine sediment characteristics (floc size, aggregation mechanisms, organic coatings and settling velocity) are providing better parameterizations for sediment transport models. These models have enhanced our understanding both of the estuarine turbidity maximum and its relationship to fronts and intratidal hydrodynamic and sedimentological variability, as well as that of simple morphological features such as intertidal mudflats. Although few, interdisciplinary studies to examine the relationships between biology and estuarine morphology show that bivalve activity and the surface diatom biofilm on an intertidal mudflat can be important in controlling the erosion of the surface mud layer.