Morphodynamic Feedback Loops Control Stable Fringing Flats

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We apply a 2-D horizontal process-based model (Delft3D) to study the feedback mechanisms that control the long-term evolution of a fringing intertidal flat in the Western Scheldt Estuary. The hydrodynamic model is validated using a comparison with measurements on the intertidal flat and the sediment transport module is calibrated against long-term morphology data. First, the processes that lead to net sediment exchange between channel and flat are studied. Then, long-term simulations are performed and the dependency of sediment fluxes on the tidal flat bathymetry, and the corresponding morphodynamic feedback mechanisms are explained. In the long run, relatively stable states can be approached, which are shown to be typical for wave-dominated fringing mudflats. The system behavior can be explained by the typical feedback mechanisms between the intertidal bathymetry and the hydrodynamic forces on the flat. In the subtidal domain, the impact of small (5–10 cm) wind waves increases with a rising elevation due to decreasing water depths. In the intertidal domain, the wave impact
increases with increasing cross-sectional slope due to wave shoaling. These relationships result in negative (stabilizing) morphodynamic feedback loops. The tidal current velocities and tide-induced bed shear stresses, on the other hand, are largely determined by the typical horizontal geometry. A stabilizing
feedback loop fails, so that there is no trend toward an equilibrium state in the absence of wind waves.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 20 Nov 2018


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