Sources of suspended sediments in salt marsh creeks: Field measurements in China and the Netherlands

Jianwei Sun, Bram van Prooijen, Xianye Wang*, Jill Hanssen, Weiming Xie, Jianliang Lin, Yuan Xu, Qing He, Zhengbing Wang

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Marsh creeks are perceived as important conduits for transporting water and sediment between mudflats and marshes. In order to advance the understanding of the transport mechanisms in creeks, the source and ultimate sink of sediment which moves between mudflats and marshes through creek channels need further investigation. Therefore, two field campaigns were conducted in two intertidal systems with varying sediment availability. The water depth, flow velocity, suspended sediment concentration, and bed level change were measured simultaneously in a marsh creek and on the adjacent mudflat in Chongming Island (China) and in Paulina Saltmarsh (the Netherlands). Paulina Saltmarsh is much smaller, more frequently flooded, and has lower sediment concentration than Chongming. These contrasting conditions allow for a comparison of transport mechanisms and functioning of the creek. Both systems first show that the high suspended sediment concentration (SSC) measured in marsh creeks is mainly the consequence of sediment advection rather than local erosion. In addition, erosion in marsh creeks is usually limited during ebb tides, reducing the export of sediment through these creeks. However, differences have been observed between two systems. The measured SSC was highly asymmetric between flood and ebb tides in Chongming. Large peaks in SSC during the flood period can be observed for most tidal cycles. The marsh creeks in Chongming therefore function as conduits for sediment import. Additionally, there are distinct overbank and underbank tides in Chongming. Sediment was trapped and retained in creeks during underbank tides, which can then be eroded and transported to the marsh during subsequent overbank tides. We also observed that mudflats in Chongming quickly recovered after erosion. These mechanisms have not been observed in Paulina Saltmarsh, where net sediment export via the marsh creek was observed due to a lack of abundant sediment in suspension during flood tides. Furthermore, the remaining bed surface of mudflats after an erosion event was stronger than before, limiting further erosion in Paulina Saltmarsh. These findings from the two systems indicate that the role of creeks in sediment import/export depends on the availability of sediment from mudflats, shedding light on nourishment strategies for salt marshes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number109206
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 2024

Bibliographical note

Green Open Access added to TU Delft Institutional Repository ‘You share, we take care!’ – Taverne project
Otherwise as indicated in the copyright section: the publisher is the copyright holder of this work and the author uses the Dutch legislation to make this work public.


  • Saltmarsh creeks
  • Sediment concentration
  • Sediment transport


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