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Discussion papers | Copyright
https://doi.org/10.5194/esurf-2018-18
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 22 Feb 2018

Research article | 22 Feb 2018

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. A revision of the manuscript is under review for the journal Earth Surface Dynamics (ESurf).

Morphology of bar-built estuaries: relation between planform shape and depth distribution

Jasper R. F. W. Leuven, Sanja Selaković, and Maarten G. Kleinhans Jasper R. F. W. Leuven et al.
  • Faculty of Geosciences, Utrecht University, PO-box 80115, 3508 TC Utrecht, The Netherlands

Abstract. Fluvial-tidal transitions in estuaries are used as major shipping fairways and are characterised by complex bar and channel patterns with a large biodiversity. Habitat suitability assessment and study of interactions between morphology and ecology therefore require bathymetric data. While imagery offers data of planform estuary dimensions, only for a few natural estuaries bathymetries are available. Here we study the relation between along-channel planform geometry, obtained as the outline from imagery, and hypsometry, which characterises the distribution of along-channel and cross-channel bed-levels. We fitted the original function of Strahler (1952) to bathymetric data along four natural estuaries. Comparison to planform estuary shape shows that hypsometry is concave at narrow sections with large channels, while complex bar morphology results in more convex hypsometry. We found a relation between hypsometric function shape and the degree to which the estuary width deviates from an ideal convergent estuary, which is calculated from river width and mouth width. This implies that the occurring bed level distributions depend on inherited Holocene topography and lithology. Our new empirical function predicts hypsometry and along-channel variation in intertidal and subtidal width. Combination with the tidal amplitude allows an estimate of inundation duration. A validation of the results on available bathymetry shows that predictions of intertidal and subtidal area are accurate within a factor 2 for estuaries of different size and character. Locations with major human influence deviate from the general trends, because dredging, dumping, land reclamation and other engineering measures cause local deviations from the expected bed-level distributions. The bathymetry predictor can be used to characterise and predict estuarine subtidal and intertidal morphology in data-poor environments.

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Jasper R. F. W. Leuven et al.
Jasper R. F. W. Leuven et al.
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