Mapping and Monitoring of Dynamic Seafloor Features with Hydroacoustic Devices in Sandy Coastal Areas (German Bight, North Sea)

Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Finn Mielck, H. Christian Hass and Svenja Papenmeier, Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz-Wadden Sea Station Sylt, List, Germany
In order to understand marine ecosystems and to provide basic data for a sustainable management in these vulnerable areas, seafloor mapping has become increasingly important. Since the knowledge regarding the seabed environments and their dynamics are still sparse, new mapping techniques have evolved in the last years and hydroacoustic devices became an important tool for quick and reliable mapping. In 2007 we started a monitoring program in the German Bight (North Sea) using sidescan sonar (Imagenex YellowFin, 330 kHz) in a study site comprising approximately 1,500 km2. In subsequent years, the area was mapped repeatedly with a resolution of ~25 cm. For ground truthing, several hundred sediment samples were taken. The investigations reveal that the area is mainly characterized by fine to coarse sand which is arranged in different seafloor features such as subaquatic dunes or relicts of Pleistocene moraines. While the alignment and position of the moraines was stable throughout the years, the dunes can be highly dynamic. Their migration indicates the amount of sediment transport in these areas. Some seafloor features could be identified as so-called sorted bedforms, which are spatially-grain-size-sorted patterns on the seafloor consisting of small rippled medium sand surrounded by smooth fine sand. These flow-transverse features are morphological linked to ridges and depressions and are further maintained by ebb and flood currents of almost equal strengths. The medium sand is separated from the fine sand by sharp boundaries in all directions which were generated by the bidirectional flow field. The extend and alignment of the sorted bedforms seem to be relatively stable in a time frame of 6 years, however small-scale variabilities up to serveral meters could be detected. We suppose that these processes mainly occur during storm surges while the fine-sand layers are winnowed away and hence the shapes of the bedforms changes.