Study of Sediment Transport in a Tidal Channel-Shoal System: Lateral Effects and Slack-Water Dynamics

Zaiyang Zhou, Jianzhong Ge*, D. S. van Maren, Zheng Bing Wang, Yu Kuai, Pingxing Ding

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)
89 Downloads (Pure)


Lateral flows redistribute sediment and influence the morphodynamics of channel-shoal systems. However, our understanding of lateral transport of suspended sediment during high and low water slack is still fairly limited, especially in engineered estuaries. Human interventions such as dike-groyne structures influence lateral exchange mechanisms. The present study aims to unravel these mechanisms in a heavily engineered, turbid channel-shoal system in the Changjiang Estuary, using a high-resolution unstructured-grid three-dimensional model and in situ observations. Analysis of model results reveals two typical transport patterns during slack-water conditions, that is, shoal-to-channel transport during low water slack and channel-to-shoal transport during high water slack. A momentum balance analysis is carried out to explain mechanisms driving the lateral transport of suspended sediment during high water slack, revealing the importance of lateral pressure gradients, Coriolis force, and the curvature-induced term. Groyne fields play a crucial role in sediment transport, especially during low water slack. A model scenario in which one groyne is removed reveals that groyne fields strongly influence lateral sediment transport. The decomposition of the sediment transport flux reveals that the turbidity maximum is shaped by a balance between seaward advection by residual flows, and landward transport by tidal pumping and gravitational circulation. Within the turbidity maximum, sediment is laterally redistributed by lateral flows during slack-water conditions, greatly influencing estuarine channel morphology.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2020JC016334
Pages (from-to)1-23
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Oceans
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • groyne fields
  • lateral flow
  • numerical model
  • salinity gradient
  • sediment transport
  • slack-water dynamics


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