Natural sediment sinks have been removed in many estuaries and tidal basins, and the resulting loss in accommodation space likely led to an increase in the suspended sediment concentration (SSC). The effect of land reclamations and changes in other sediment sinks on SSC has been investigated using the Ems Estuary as a well-documented example. Coastline reconstructions and stratigraphic observations in the Ems Estuary, on the Dutch–German border, have been used to quantify the long-term (centennial) changes in sediment sinks. These data indicate that approximately 2–3 · 106 dry weight tons of fine-grained sediments annually accumulated in the estuary from the end of the 16th century up to the beginning of the 20th century. In the 20th century and especially from 1960 to 1994, large amounts of sediment were dredged and removed from the Ems Estuary. Since the 1990s, sediment removal rates through dredging activities sharply decreased, while available monitoring data show that on average SSC in the estuary increased during this period. The potential impact of sediment sinks on SSC has been investigated using a simple mass balance and a complex numerical model. Both methodologies indicate that the reduction in sediment sinks lead to an increase in suspended sediment concentration of several 10s of mg/l averaged over the estuary. The numerical model also resolves the spatial variation in changing suspended sediment concentrations, suggesting that locally the increase may exceed 100 mg/l. This work reveals that a decrease in accommodation space for fine-grained sediments by land reclamations or by reducing fine-grained sediment extraction will lead to an increase in suspended sediment concentrations, and provides methodologies to estimate the impact of interventions on SSC of estuaries and tidal basins.
- Land reclamations
- Suspended sediment concentration
- Coastal geology
- Turbidity increase
- Numerical model