Sedimentation, bioturbation, and sedimentary fabric evolution on a modern mesotidal mudflat: A multi-tracer study of processes, rates, and scales

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A study of muddy tidal-flat sedimentation and bioturbation was undertaken in the Waitetuna Arm of Raglan Harbor, New Zealand, to evaluate the physical and biological processes that control cycling of sediment between the intertidal seabed and sediment-water interface, and also the formation of tidal flat sedimentary fabric and fine-scale stratigraphy. Cores were collected along an intertidal transect, and analyzed for sedimentary fabric, 210Pb and 7Be radiochemical distributions, and grain size. At the same locations, a new approach for time-series core-X-radiography study was undertaken (spanning 191 days), using magnetite-rich sand as a tracer for sedimentation and bioturbation processes in shallow tidal flat sediments. Sedimentary fabric consists of a shallow stratified layer overlying a deeper zone of intensely bioturbated shelly mud. Bioadvection mixes the deeper zone and contributes fine sediment to the surface stratified layer, via biodeposition. Physical resuspension and deposition of surface muds by wave and tidal flow are also likely contributors to formation of the surficial stratified layer, but physical stratification is not observed below this depth. The deliberate tracer study allowed calculation of bioadvection rates that control strata formation, and can be used to model diagenetic processes. Results suggest that the upper ~15cm of seabed can be fully mixed over timescales <1.75y. Such mixing will erase pre-existing sedimentary fabric and transport buried sediment and chemical compounds back to the tidal-flat surface. Shallow biodiffusion also exists, but produces much slower and shallower mass transport. Best fits for 210Pb profiles using a diagenetic bioadvection/sedimentation model and independently measured tiered bioadvection rates suggest that sediment accumulation rates (SARs) on the tidal flat are ~0.25cm/y, near the low end of contemporary New Zealand muddy intertidal SARs. Frequent deposition and erosion of the surface layer demonstrates that long-term sediment accumulation captures only a small fraction of sediment deposited at any one time. Model results also suggest that our magnetite tracer method may slightly underestimate short-term shallow mixing rates (demonstrated by 7Be profiles), and slightly overestimate longer-term, deeper bioturbation rates (demonstrated by 210Pb profiles). © 2014 Elsevier Ltd.

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Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science

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