Adapting Methods For Bed Level Assessment In And Around Submerged Vegetation


  • MAIKE PAUL Leibniz Universität Hannover, Germany
  • MAREIKE TAPHORN Leibniz Universität Hannover, Germany
  • ARMIN MOGHIMI Leibniz Universität Hannover, Germany



Sediment-Erosion-Bar, Underwater Photogrammetry, Flexible Vegetation, Sediment Dynamics


Coastal vegetation has the capacity to reduce flow and orbital velocities near the bed and stabilize the sediment with its root network. As a result it has an effect on sediment dynamics which gains increasing attention as ecosystem service in coastal protection. To quantify and predict this ecosystem service, laboratory experiments with live or artificial vegetation are often conducted. During these experiments the assessment of bed level change is challenged by the presence of the vegetation. Standard optical and acoustic measurement techniques cannot obtain data below vegetation canopies. Especially for submerged flexible vegetation like seagrass, this challenge is aggravated for airborne methods that require flume drainage (e.g. terrestrial laser scanning) (Follett and Nepf, 2012). Flexible blades will spread on the ground during drainage, potentially covering meadow edges and thus excluding areas of interest from the bed level analysis. Moreover, live aquatic vegetation may be stressed by air exposure, if the facility is drained for bed level measurements. This potentially leads to different, non-natural behaviour in consecutive experiments. And finally, draining and refilling the facility is time consuming, especially as it needs to be done very carefully as not to disturb any generated bedforms. This time aspect hampers the collection of time series and thus the assessment of the development of bed level changes with airborne methods. Underwater technology like sonar and echo sounder avoid shading of areas by spread-out vegetation, but are equally not capable of obtaining data below vegetation canopies. Moreover, instruments that can obtain spatially resolved data underwater often require a minimum water depth which may exceed the water depth relevant for experiments with vegetation.

In intertidal areas (e.g. salt marshes) the challenge of obtaining bed level data below vegetation canopies is overcome by the use of a sediment-erosion-bar (SEB) (Cahoon et al., 2002). For this method a horizontal bar is installed at a fixed height above the ground and the distance between this bar and the ground is measured at defined locations along the bar and set time intervals to obtain information on the bed level change. SEBs have successfully been adapted to laboratory settings in the past (Spencer et al., 2016), but still required flume drainage. We applied this method in an undrained flume to assess sediment dynamics in and around an artificial seagrass meadow. Additionally, we tested underwater photogrammetry to obtain 3D-spatial information (e.g., 3D models) on bed level and bedforms at and near the vegetation edges. Photogrammetry has been successfully applied to obtain bedform information in the presence of seagrass stands, but to date still required the drainage of the facility (Meysick et al., 2022).




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