Multidecadal Evolution of the Turbidity Maximum Zone in a Macrotidal River Under Climate and Anthropogenic Pressures

I. Jalón-Rojas, Y.M. Dijkstra, H.M. Schuttelaars, R.L. Brouwer, S. Schmidt, A. Sottolichio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Climate and human pressures can influence the evolution of estuarine sediment dynamics concurrently, but the understanding and quantification of their cause–effect relationships are still challenging due to the occurrence of complex hydro-morpho-sedimentary feedbacks. The Garonne Tidal River (GTR, upper Gironde Estuary, France) is a clear example of a system stressed by both anthropogenic and climate change, as it has been subject to decreasing river discharges, natural morphological changes, and gravel extraction. To understand the relative effect of each hydrological and geomorphological pressure on the turbidity maximum zone (TMZ), the sediment dynamics in the GTR over the last six decades was evaluated using the width-averaged idealized iFlow model. Model results show a gradual increase in tidal amplitude and currents over the decades that has led to the upstream shift of the landward sediment-transport capacity components (external M4 tide, spatial settling lag, and tidal return flow). The upstream displacement of the TMZ between the 1950s and the 2010s was estimated to be at least 19 km, of which about three fourth was induced by geomorphological changes and one fourth by hydrological changes. Concerning the geomorphological changes, the natural evolution of the lower Gironde morphology was the main pressure inducing the displacement of the TMZ in the GTR. Anthropogenic and natural changes in morphology and bed roughness in the GTR itself also contributed to this evolution. The natural geomorphological changes were, in turn, probably promoted by the evolution of sediment dynamics, so this study reveals the closed circle that governs the intensification of the TMZ.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2020JC016273
Pages (from-to)1-20
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Oceans
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Climate pressures
  • estuarine turbidity maximum
  • human pressures
  • hydro-morpho-sedimentary feedbacks
  • idealized modeling
  • sediment-transport capacity


Dive into the research topics of 'Multidecadal Evolution of the Turbidity Maximum Zone in a Macrotidal River Under Climate and Anthropogenic Pressures'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this