The Existence and Origin of Multiple Equilibria in Sand-Mud Sediment Beds

A. Colina Alonso*, D. S. van Maren, P. M. J. Herman, R. J. A. van Weerdenburg, Y. Huismans, S. J. Holthuijsen, L. L. Govers, A. I. Bijleveld, Z. B. Wang

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
42 Downloads (Pure)


The sediment composition of the seabed governs its mobility, hence determining sediment transport and morphological evolution of estuaries and tidal basins. Bed sediments often consist of mixtures of sand and mud, with spatial gradients in the sand/mud content. This study aims at increasing the understanding of processes driving the sediment composition in tidal basins, focusing on depositional processes. We show that bed sediments in the Wadden Sea tend to be either mud-dominated or sand-dominated, resulting in a bimodal distribution of the mud content where the two modes represent equilibrium conditions. The equilibria depend primarily on the sediment deposition fluxes, with bimodality originating from the dependence of suspended sand/mud concentrations on the local bed composition. Our analysis shows that bimodality is a phenomenon that is not only specific for the Wadden Sea; it can be expected for a wide range of suspended sediment concentrations and thus also in other systems worldwide.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2022GL101141
Number of pages11
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number22
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • bed composition
  • morphodynamics
  • sand-mud
  • sand-mud segregation
  • tidal basins
  • Wadden sea


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