Seasonal changes in sediment erodibility in a sandy carbonate environment detected from turbidity time series

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Abstract

Sediment resuspension and sediment erodibility were investigated in Hamelin Pool (Western Australia), which is one of the few modern carbonate settings where stromatolites and ooids are actively forming. For this purpose, the first time series of wave height and water turbidity were recorded at a ~2.5 m deep subtidal location in Hamelin Pool from July 2017 to March 2018. Sediment grain size analyses indicate that this environment is nearly free of mud, so the optical turbidity sensor was able to detect the intra-wave modulation of sand resuspension. This allowed us to use the standard deviation of the turbidity within a burst – as opposed to the mean turbidity – as a proxy for sand resuspension. This approach was further validated by wave tank experiments, which also helped to identify the occurrence of biofouling and discard the affected data. Although the wave regime was similar throughout the year, sand resuspension changed with seasons. Sediment erodibility, defined as the sand resuspension normalized by the bed shear stress, was higher during the Austral winter and spring, and lower in summer and autumn. This decrease in erodibility coincided with an increase in temperature and solar irradiance. These two environmental factors likely modulate the growth of benthic microbes, which in turn affects sediment dynamics. This seasonal modulation of sediment dynamics may influence additional processes, including the delivery of sand grains to stromatolites and the precipitation of aragonite around ooids and in stromatolite laminae.

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Murshid, S., Mariotti, G., Pruss, S. B., Bosak, T., & Suosaari, E. P. (2021). Seasonal changes in sediment erodibility in a sandy carbonate environment detected from turbidity time series. Marine Geology, 439. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.margeo.2021.106570

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