Turning The Tide: Live-Bed Scale Experiments Of Bar-Dominated Estuaries And Effects Of Dredging On Intertidal Habitat


  • MAARTEN G. KLEINHANS Utrecht University, Department of Physical Geography, Netherland
  • JANA R. COX Utrecht University, Department of Physical Geography, Netherland
  • EISE W. NOTA Utrecht University, Department of Physical Geography, Netherland




Estuary, morphology, live-bed scale model, dredging, scale effects


Many large sand-dominated estuaries and tidal basins have complex channel and bar patterns, wherein a continuous deep channel suitable for shipping is rarely naturally present, which requires dredging. The intertidal area has important, often protected habitats for macro-benthic species, wader birds and other species. The question is to what degree channel and shoal dimensions and the amount of intertidal area are affected by dredging and disposal for access to ports.

While numerical modelling is conducted for these systems with some success, complementary scale experiments with live beds have challenged the fields of coastal engineering and coastal morphodynamics for over a century. Compared to scale models for rivers, the scale issues in tidal experiments are more complicated and very few attempts have been pursued. For example, Reynolds (1889) conducted the first scale experiments of an estuary by a periodic sea level fluctuation, but found that even fine sand was hard to mobilize, while the bed surface was dominated by ripples rather than bars. Similarly, Tambroni et al. (2005) carefully scaled sediment mobility in a converging channel and obtained large-scale morphological patterns with gentle bars nearly overwhelmed by ripples. Stefanon et al. (2010) present a careful attempt at erosive tidal channel network development in a scale model with low-density sediment, which showed unexplained, over-large scour holes at channel junctions. The key issues for tidal experiments are to obtain sufficient sediment mobility (expressed as Shields or Rouse number) and to avoid over-large ripples and scours, and to this end classic river scale modelling is inadequate. Here we assess whether our recent innovation solves these scale issues. The objective of this abstract is to elucidate the scaling of experiments that enable study of morphodynamic estuaries in many aspects including effects of sediment management by dredging.




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