Hydrodynamic controls on sediment retention in an emerging diversion-fed delta

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The morphodynamics of river-dominated deltas are largely controlled by the supply and retention of sediment within deltaic wetlands and the rate of relative sea-level rise. Yet, sediment budgets for deltas are often poorly constrained. In the Mississippi River Delta, a system rapidly losing land due to natural and anthropogenic causes, restoration efforts seek to build new land through the use of river diversions. At the Davis Pond Freshwater Diversion, a new crevasse splay has emerged since construction was completed in 2002. Here, we use beryllium-7 activity in sediment cores and USGS measurements of discharge and turbidity to calculate seasonal sediment input, deposition, and retention within the vegetated Davis Pond receiving basin. In winter/spring 2015, which included an experimental period of high discharge through the diversion, Davis Pond received 106,800 metric tons of sediment, 44% of which was retained within the basin. During this time, mean flow velocity was 0.21 m s −1 and mean turbidity was 56 formazin nephelometric units (FNU). In summer/fall 2015, the Davis Pond basin received 35,900 metric tons of sediment, 81% of which was retained. Mean flow velocity in summer/fall was 0.10 m s −1 and mean turbidity was 55 FNU. The increase in sediment retention from winter/spring 2015 to summer/fall 2015 may be due in part to the corresponding drop in water flow velocity, which allowed more sediment to settle out of suspension. Although high water discharge increases sediment input and deposition, increased turbulence associated with higher current velocity appears to increase sediment throughput and thereby decrease the sediment trapping efficiency. Sediment retention in Davis Pond is on the high end of the range seen in deltaic wetlands, perhaps due to the enclosed geometry of the receiving basin. Future diversion design and operation should target moderate water discharge and flow velocities in order to jointly maximize sediment deposition and retention and provide optimal conditions for delta growth.




Keogh, M. E., Kolker, A. S., Snedden, G. A., & Renfro, A. A. (2019). Hydrodynamic controls on sediment retention in an emerging diversion-fed delta. Geomorphology, 332, 100–111. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.geomorph.2019.02.008

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