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Water 2016, 8(5), 190; doi:10.3390/w8050190

Riverbed Micromorphology of the Yangtze River Estuary, China

1
State Key Lab of Estuarine & Coastal Research, East China Normal University, Shanghai 200062, China
2
School of Renewable Natural Resources, Louisiana State University Agricultural Center, 227 Highland Road, Baton Rouge, LA 70803, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Miklas Scholz
Received: 6 March 2016 / Revised: 14 April 2016 / Accepted: 18 April 2016 / Published: 6 May 2016
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Abstract

Dunes are present in nearly all fluvial channels and are vital in understanding sediment transport, deposition, and flow conditions during floods of rivers and estuaries. This information is pertinent for helping developing management practices to reduce risks in river transportation and engineering. Although a few recent studies have investigated the micromorphology of a portion of the Yangtze River estuary in China, our understanding of dune development in this large estuary is incomplete. It is also poorly understood how the development and characteristics of these dunes have been associated with human activities in the upper reach of the Yangtze River and two large-scale engineering projects in the estuarine zone. This study analyzed the feature in micromorphology of the entire Yangtze River estuary bed over the past three years and assessed the morphological response of the dunes to recent human activities. In 2012, 2014, and 2015, multi-beam bathymetric measurements were conducted on the channel surface of the Yangtze River estuary. The images were analyzed to characterize the subaqueous dunes and detect their changes over time. Bottom sediment samples were collected for grain size analysis to assess the physical properties of the dunes. We found that dunes in the Yangtze River estuary can be classified in four major classes: very large dunes, large dunes, medium dunes, and small dunes. Large dunes were predominant, amounting to 51.5%. There was a large area of dunes developed in the middle and upper reaches of the Yangtze River estuary and in the Hengsha Passage. A small area of dunes was observed for the first time in the turbidity maximum zone of the Yangtze River estuary. These dunes varied from 0.12 to 3.12 m in height with a wide range of wavelength from 2.83 to 127.89 m, yielding a range in height to wavelength of 0.003–0.136. Sharp leeside slope angles suggest that the steep slopes of asymmetrical dunes in the middle and upper reaches, and the turbidity maximum zone of the Yangtze River estuary face predominantly towards tides because of the ebb-dominated currents. Sharp windward slope angles in the lower reach of the North Passage show the influence of flood-dominated currents on dunes. It is likely that the scale of dunes will increase in the future in the South Channel because of a sharp decline of sediment discharge caused by recent human activities. View Full-Text
Keywords: channel morphology; river bedforms; multi-beam profiling; Yangtze River Estuary channel morphology; river bedforms; multi-beam profiling; Yangtze River Estuary
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Wu, S.; Cheng, H.; Xu, Y.J.; Li, J.; Zheng, S.; Xu, W. Riverbed Micromorphology of the Yangtze River Estuary, China. Water 2016, 8, 190.

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