Master of Science (MS)


Oceanography and Coastal Sciences

Document Type



The western Louisiana inner shelf along the Chenier Plain coast has experienced fluid mud deposition in response to increased fine sediment supplied by the Atchafalaya River since ~1950’s. The goal of this project is to assess the characteristics comprising the sedimentary strata and stratigraphic architecture that result from mud deposition on the inner shelf. Recent time-series cores collected from the inner shelf along the Chenier plain coast show the region is subject to transient fluid mud deposition, leading to high long-term accumulation rates. Sediment cores were collected in May 2001, March and May 2002 from the inner shelf landward of the 10 m isobath, 100 km west of Atchafalaya Bay. Porosity, granulometry, X-radiography, and 7Be, 210Pb and 137Cs geochronology indicate the presence of high-porosity event layers 2-25 cm thick composed of clay with basal silt laminations. These event layers appear to concentrate around a depocenter located 95-110 km west of the Atchafalaya River, landward of the 7 m isobath, but can be ephemeral features on a seasonal time scale. The combination of high-energy benthic hydrodynamics and sufficient fine sediment can result in cross-shelf gravity-driven flows (on very low slopes) that can blanket hundreds of square kilometers to thicknesses exceeding 10 cm. The sedimentary fabric that results from gravity-driven flows consists of a stacked pattern of predominantly fine-grained, fining upward packages. The resulting morphology of the shelf may be a clinoform, with maximum deposition occurring on the foreset (convex upward) region. The observations from the western Louisiana inner shelf (mud/silt couplets that comprise the fine-scale stratigraphy of the region, ephemeral 7Be deposits, and clinoform morphology exhibiting erosional features in sidescan and chirp data) are consistent with the wave-enhanced gravity-driven flow model. These results indicate that wave-enhanced gravity driven flows may be an important component in the dispersal of Atchafalaya River sediment.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Sam Bentley