Jackson Estuarine Laboratory

Seasonal and spatial variability of particulate matter of a muddy intertidal flood front


The concentration and composition of suspended particulate matter (SPM) were measured weekly for a period of one year in the flood front waters traversing a muddy tidal flat. SPM concentrations were lowest in the winter when portions of the tidal flat were covered with ice, and biological activity was minimal. In contrast, the summer months had the highest SPM concentrations which reflected increased bottom resuspension.

The two main sources of SPM were suspended matter carried in from offshore on the flooding tide and resuspended in situ bottom sediments. The offshore source was characterized by low SPM concentrations, coarse textures, and a high content of protein and chlorophyll ‘a’. Samples taken during resuspension events (storms/showers) had high SPM concentrations, finer textures, and were enriched in dead detrital organic material (phaeophytin). At any one time the SPM was primarily an admixture of these two sources.

The highest SPM measurements were taken during storm events, with rainfall seeming to play a dominant physical role in aiding resuspension. SPM concentrations, textures, and compositions collected during the storms closely approximated SPM measurements made over newly dug ‘clam flats’.

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