Benthic Flow and Mixing in a Shallow Shoal Grass (Halodule wrightii) Fringe

David Cannon*, Kelly Kibler, Vasileios Kitsikoudis

*Corresponding author for this work

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Abstract

Mean flow and turbulence measurements collected in a shallow Halodule wrightii shoal grass fringe highlighted significant heterogeneity in hydrodynamic effects over relatively small spatial scales. Experiments were conducted within the vegetation canopy (~4 cm above bottom) for relatively sparse (40% cover) and dense (70% cover) vegetation, with reference measurements collected near the bed above bare sediment. Significant benthic velocity shear was observed at all sample locations, with canopy shear layers that penetrated nearly to the bed at both vegetated sites. Turbulent shear production (P) was balanced by turbulent kinetic energy dissipation (ϵ) at all sample locations (P/ϵ≈1), suggesting that stem-generated turbulence played a minor role in the overall turbulence budget. While the more sparsely vegetated sample site was associated with enhanced channel-to-shore velocity attenuation (71.4 ± 1.0%) relative to flows above bare sediment (51.7 ± 2.2%), unexpectedly strong cross-shore currents were observed nearshore in the dense canopy (VNS), with magnitudes that were nearly twice as large as those measured in the main channel (VCH; VNS/VCH¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯ = 1.81 ± 0.08). These results highlight the importance of flow steering and acceleration for within- and across-canopy transport, especially at the scale of individual vegetation patches, with important implications for nutrient and sediment fluxes. Importantly, this work represents one of the first hydrodynamic studies of shoal grass fringes in shallow coastal estuaries, as well as one of the only reports of turbulent mixing within H. wrightii canopies.
Original languageEnglish
Article number115
Number of pages15
JournalGeosciences (Switzerland)
Volume11
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2021

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