Observed and modelled tidal bar sedimentology reveals preservation bias against mud in estuarine stratigraphy

This is a Preprint and has not been peer reviewed. The published version of this Preprint is available: https://doi.org/10.1002/dep2.190. This is version 3 of this Preprint.


Download Preprint


Lisanne Braat , Harm Jan Pierik, Wout M. van Dijk , Wietse van de Lageweg, Muriel Bruckner, Bas van der Meulen, Maarten G Kleinhans 


Mud plays a pivotal role in estuarine ecology and morphology. However, field data on the lateral and vertical depositional record of mud is rare. Furthermore, numerical morphodynamic models often ignore mud due to long computational times and implications of mixed depositional processes. This study aims to understand the spatial distribution, formative conditions, and preservation of mud deposits in the intertidal zone of bars in high-energy sand-dominated estuaries, and to elucidate the effects of mud on morphology, ecology and stratigraphic architecture. To meet these objectives, field data (historic bathymetry, bio-morphological maps and sediment cores of the Shoal of Walsoorden, Western Scheldt estuary, the Netherlands) was combined with complementary hydro-morphodynamic numerical modelling (Delft3D). Based on the field observations, two types of mud deposits were distinguished: 1) mudflat deposits, which are thick (>10 cm) mud beds at the surface associated with high elevations and low accumulation rates; and 2) mud drapes, which are thin (millimetre to centimetre) buried laminae that form and preserve at a wide range of elevations and energy conditions. Model results show that deposition on mudflats occurs just after high-tide slack water in areas shielded from high flood velocities, suggesting that mud accumulation is mostly controlled by elevation, flow velocity and flow direction. Mud accumulation increases shoal elevation, sometimes to supratidal levels. This reduces flow over the shoal, which in turn reduces chute channel formation, stabilises bar morphology and decreases local tidal prism. These effects further promote mud deposition and vegetation settling. Although observations show that mud cover at the surface is relatively high (20-40% of the intertidal area), mud constitutes only a small percentage of the total estuary volume (ca 5%) revealing that only a small fraction is preserved in the stratigraphy. Due to this mismatch between surface and subsurface expression of mud, interpretations of estuarine stratigraphy risk underestimating the influence of mud at the surface on morphodynamics and habitats




Earth Sciences, Geomorphology, Physical Sciences and Mathematics


estuarine mud deposits, estuary stratigraphy, mud preservation, Shoal accretion, tidal bar morphology


Published: 2019-08-29 11:55

Last Updated: 2022-04-21 10:13

Older Versions

CC BY Attribution 4.0 International

Add a Comment

You must log in to post a comment.


There are no comments or no comments have been made public for this article.