On the significance of wind event frequency for particulate resuspension and light attenuation in coastal waters

Florence Verspecht, Charitha Pattiaratchi

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    Wind-induced resuspension of particulate matter was investigated in a shallow coastal region off southwestern Australia, chosen for its isolation from the complexity of other confounding physical processes. The site had negligible river discharge, low nutrient concentrations and was largely devoid of tidal currents. Moorings were deployed in the micro-tidal waters to measure current speed, wave parameters, backscatter, subsurface irradiance and dissolved oxygen concentration. Two contrasting sites were chosen as representative of high and low wave-energy environments. Turbulent kinetic energy, recorded by the instruments, was dominated by the wind-wave signal. During wind events, at the most exposed site, bed shear stress exceeded the critical stress required to lift and resuspend sediments. At the most enclosed site, bed shear stresses only exceeded the critical stress required to suspend less dense material such as benthic fluff. Wind-waves were found to be the dominant mechanism driving the vertical redistribution of particulate matter. Low frequency storm events and high frequency (daily) sea breezes were found to differ significantly in their retention of particulate matter suspended in the water column. Long periods of calm generally followed the passage of a storm, allowing suspended particulate matter to settle out, while consecutive daily sea breezes were more effective in holding particulate matter in suspension. Linear correlations were found between the backscatter (a proxy for suspended particulate matter), light attenuation and dissolved oxygen concentration. Approximately half the variability in dissolved oxygen concentration could be attributed to the variability in light attenuation, with a decline in concentration during wind resuspension events. Variability in dissolved oxygen concentration was interpreted as a possible indicator of the moderation of pelagic phytoplankton productivity during wind events.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1971-1982
    JournalContinental Shelf Research
    Issue number18
    Early online date21 Sept 2010
    Publication statusPublished - Oct 2010


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