Sand-capping stabilizes muddy sediment and improves benthic light conditions in eutrophic estuaries: laboratory verification and the potential for recovery of eelgrass (Zostera marina)

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Mogens Flindt, Nele Wendländer, Kadri Kuusemae, Troels Lange, Nicolaj Aaskoven, Sonja Winter, Ana Sousa, Erik Rasmussen, Paula Canal-Verges, Rod Connolly, Erik Kristensen


Decades of eutrophication have increased water turbidity in Danish estuaries and led to light limitation of eelgrass (Zostera marina) growth. Former eelgrass areas are now denuded and consist of organic-rich muddy sediment with frequent resuspension events that maintain a high turbidity state. In addition, low anchoring capacity of eelgrass in the soft organic-rich sediments has contributed to eelgrass loss. When navigation channels in Danish estuaries are dredged, large amounts (~100.000 m3) of sandy sediment are shipped to remote dumping sites. Instead, we suggest that the dredged sand is used to consolidate adjacent muddy areas. We demonstrate in the present study that capping of fluid muddy sediment with 10 cm of sand is feasible without any vertical mixing and that this marine restoration approach can significantly lower the magnitude and frequency of resuspension events. Erosion of suspended solids change from 5 g m-2 min-1 in muddy areas to about 0.2 g m-2 min-1 in sand-capped areas, implying that sand-capping can significantly improve light conditions. Moreover, erosion thresholds increase from about 10-12 cm s-1 for mud to 40 cm s-1 for sand-capped mud. In conclusion, improved benthic light and increased anchoring capacity by sand-capping, a marine restoration practice, has the potential to facilitate restoration of otherwise lost eelgrass habitats.



Life Sciences, Physical Sciences and Mathematics


Marine restoration, Eelgrass recovery, sediment resuspension, turbidity, environmental conditions


Published: 2021-10-12 06:45

Last Updated: 2021-10-13 08:18

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CC BY Attribution 4.0 International

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