Tidal flats play an important role in promoting coastal biodiversity, defense against flooding, land reclamation and recreation. Many coastal tidal flats, especially the tide-dominant ones, are muddy. However, the number of studies on the profile shape and surficial sediment distribution of muddy tidal flats is small compared to sandy beaches. Based on high spatial-resolution measurements along the tide-dominant Jiangsu Coast, China, we analyzed the morphology and sediment characteristics of the unvegetated intertidal flats along the Jiangsu Coast. The Jiangsu Coast can be divided into an eroding northern part (north coast) and an accreting southern part (south coast). The beach slope of the north coast shows a southward flattening trend, apart from some outliers related to rocky parts of the coastline. We found alternating very fine and coarse sediment (depending on the local clay content) for different locations along the north coast, which can be explained from consolidation and armoring-induced erosion resistance. In the south coast, we found gradual coarsening of bed surface sediment and gradual flattening of beach slopes to the south. This seemingly unexpected pattern is explained by the flood-dominant current causing landward sediment transport, larger tidal range in the south part, sheltering effect of the Radial Sand Ridges, and contribution of different sediment sources, viz. the Abandoned Yellow River Delta and the Radial Sand Ridges. In the cross-shore direction, the sediment grain size decreases landward. Waves are only of secondary importance for the sediment dynamics at the unvegetated tidal flats along the Jiangsu Coast.
- Beach slope
- Human intervention
- Intertidal beach
- Jiangsu Coast
- Surficial sediment grain-size