New method of suspended sediment flux collection in the estuarine environment using bi-directional time-integrated mass-flux samplers (TIMs)

Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Elaine Monbureau, Emily A Elliott, Glenn Walters, Brent A McKee and Antonio B Rodriguez, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC, United States
Understanding the source and abundance of sediment transported within tidal creeks is essential for studying the connectivity between coastal watersheds and estuaries under conditions of changing land use, storminess and sea-level rise. Furthermore, analysis of the fine grained suspended sediment load (SSL) carried through the system is critical in our understanding of nutrient and contaminant transport, human-induced change, and the effects of climate. Unfortunately traditional methods of SSL collection, including instantaneous measurements and automatic samplers, can be labor intensive, expensive and are often inadequate for geochemical analysis. In estuaries this issue is even more pronounced, due to tidal bi-directional flow. This study tests the efficacy of a modification to an established uni-directional time-integrated sediment sampler (TIMs) design. Our new bi-directional TIMs design utilizes a ‘L’ shaped outflow tube to collect sediment uniquely in each direction of tidal flow. Laboratory flume experiments using dye and particle image velocimetry (PIV) are used to characterize the flow within the collector, specifically, to quantify the settling velocities and identify the stagnation points. Further laboratory tests of chemically dispersed sediment indicate that bi-directional TIMs capture nearly all incoming particles greater than 4 μm across a range of flow velocities. Field trials were employed in two distinct sampling locations within the tidal zone. Samples of single time point SSL were collected over a four day period and compared to sediment collected by the bi-directional TIMs over the same time frame. Particle size composition from the bi-directional TIMs were representative of the array of single time point samples, but yielded greater mass and proved to be more representative of the overall tidal flux. This work proves the efficacy of the modified bi-directional TIMs design, offering a novel tool for collection of SSL in the tidally dominated portion of the watershed.