Environmental Fluid Mechanics

, Volume 10, Issue 1–2, pp 177–196 | Cite as

A model diagnostic study of age of river-borne sediment transport in the tidal York River Estuary

Original Article


As nutrients and organic matters are transported preferentially in an adsorbed state and tend to bind to the sediments, sediment transport plays an important role on eutrophication processes in the estuaries. The timescale of sediment transport is of significance for studying the retention of pollutants and eutrophication processes in the estuaries. Unlike transport of dissolved substances that is mainly controlled by advection and diffusion processes, the sediment transport is significantly affected by the intermittent settling and resuspension processes. A three-dimensional model with suspended sediment transport was utilized to investigate the transport timescale of river-borne sediment in the tidal York River Estuary. The results indicate that river discharge dominantly determines the age of river-borne sediment in the estuary. High river discharge results in a low sediment age compared to that under mean flow. The intermittent effects of settling and resuspension events greatly affect the river-borne sediment age. Both settling velocity and critical shear stress are shown to be key parameters in determining the sediment transport timescale. The sediment age decreases as settling velocity and/or critical shear stress decrease, while it increases with the increase of settling velocity that prevents the sediment to be transported out of the estuary.


Transport of suspended sediment Age of sediment York River Estuary Chesapeake Bay Sediment modeling 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Beckers JM, Delhez E, Deleersnijder E (2001) Some properties of generalized age-distribution equations in fluid dynamics. J Appl Math 61(5): 1526–1544Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Carpenter SR, Caraco NF, Correll DL, Howarth RW, Sharpley AN, Smith VH (1998) Nonpoint pollution of surface waters with phosphorus and nitrogen. Ecol Appl 8: 559–568CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Deleersnijder E, Campin JM, Delhez EJM (2001) The concept of age in marine modeling. I. Theory and preliminary model results. J Mar Syst 28: 229–267CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Delhez EJM, Deleersnijder E (2002) The concept of age in marine modeling. II. Concentration distribution function in the English Channel and the North Sea. J Mar Syst 31: 279–297CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Delhez EJM, Campin J-M, Hirst AC, Deleersnijder E (1999) Toward a general theory of the age in ocean modeling. Ocean Model 1: 17–27CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Delhez EJM, Lacroix G, Deleersnijder E (2004) The age as a diagnostic of the dynamics of marine ecosystem models. Ocean Dyn 54: 221–231CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Dellapenna TM (1999) Fine-scale strata formation in biologically and physically dominated estuarine systems within the lower Chesapeake and York River subestuary. Ph.D dissertation, Virginia Institute of Marine Science, the College of William and Mary, Gloucester Point, VirginiaGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Dellapenna TM, Kuehl SA, Schaffner LC (1998) Sea-bed mixing and particle residence times in biologically and physically dominated estuarine systems: a comparison of lower Chesapeake Bay and the York River subestuary. Estuar Coast Shelf Sci 46: 777–795CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Dellapenna TM, Kuehl SA, Schaffner LC (2003) Ephemeral deposition, seabed mixing and fine-scale strata formation in the York River Estuary, Chesapeake Bay. Estuar Coast Shelf Sci 58: 621–643CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Dickhudt P, Friedrichs CT, Schaffner LC (2007) Seasonal variability and controls on erosion in a partially mixed estuary. In: The 9th INTERCOH conference, Brest, France, 25–28 September 2007Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Faas RW (1973) Sedimentational regimes of the York River, Southeastern Virginia, as shown by mass properties. Chesap Sci 14(3): 181–187CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Galperin B, Kantha LH, Hassid S, Rosati A (1988) A quasi-equilibrium turbulent energy model for geophysical flows. J Atmos Sci 45: 55–62CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Geyer WR (1997) Influence of wind on dynamics and flushing of shallow estuaries. Estuar Coast Shelf Sci 44: 713–722CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Gong W, Shen J (2009) Response of sediment dynamics in the York River Estuary, USA to tropical cyclone Isabel of 2003. Estuar Coast Shelf Sci. doi: 10.1016/j.ecss.2009.06.004
  15. 15.
    Gourgue O, Deleersnijder E, White L (2007) Toward a generic method for studying water renewal, with application to the epilimnion of Lake Tanganyika. Estuar Coast Shelf Sci 74: 628–640CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Gustafsson KE, Bendtsen J (2007) Elucidating the dynamics and mixing agents of a shallow fjord through age tracer modeling. Estuar Coast Shelf Sci 74(4): 641–654CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Haas LW (1977) The effect of spring-neap tidal cycle on the vertical salinity structure of the James, York, and Rappahannock Rivers, Virginia, USA. Estuar Coast Shelf Sci 5: 485–496Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Hamrick JM (1992) A three-dimensional environmental fluid dynamics computer code: theoretical and computational aspects. Special Report in Applied Marine Science and Ocean Engineering, No. 317. College of William and Mary, VIMS, 63 ppGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Holt JT, James ID (1999) A simulation of the southern North Sea in comparison with measurements from the North Sea project. Part 2: suspended particulate matter. Cont Shelf Res 19: 1617–1642CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Kniskern TA, Kuehl SA (2003) Spatial and temporal variability of seabed disturbance in the York River subestuary. Estuar Coast Shelf Sci 58: 37–55CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Lin J, Kuo AY (2001) Secondary turbidity maximum in a partially mixed microtidal estuary. Estuaries 24: 707–720CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Lin J, Kuo AY (2003) A model study of turbidity maxima in the York River Estuary, Virginia. Estuaries 26(5): 1269–1280CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Liu JT, Chao S-Y, Hsu RT (2002) Numerical modelling study of sediment dispersal by a river plume. Cont Shelf Res 22: 1745–1773CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    McCarthy RK (1993) Residual currents in tidally dominated, well-mixed estuaries. Tellus 45A: 325–340Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Mellor GL, Yamada T (1982) Development of a turbulence closure model for geophysical fluid problems. Rev Geophys Space Phys 20: 851–875CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Mercier C, Delhez EJM (2007) Diagnosis of the sediment transport in the Belgian Coastal Zone. Estuar Coast Shelf Sci 74: 670–683CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Morris AW, Howarth MJ (1998) Bed stress induced sediment resuspension (SERE 88/89). Cont Shelf Res 18: 1203–1213CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Nichols MM, Kim S-C, Brouwer CM (1991) Sediment characterization of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. NOAA National Estuarine Inventory, Virginia Institute of Marine Science, the College of William and Mary, Gloucester PointGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Nixon SW (1995) Coastal marine eutrophication: a definition, socialcauses, and future consequences. Ophelia 41: 199–219Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    Scully ME, Friedrichs C, Brubaker J (2005) Control of estuarine stratification and mixing by wind-induced straining of the estuarine density field. Estuaries 28(3): 321–326CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Shen J, Haas L (2004) Calculating age and residence time in the tidal York River using three-dimensional model experiments. Estuar Coast Shelf Sci 61: 449–461CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Shen J, Lin J (2006) Modeling study of the influences of tide and stratification on age of water in the tidal James River. Estuar Coast Shelf Sci 68(1–2): 101–112CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    Shen J, Wang HV (2007) Determining the age of water and long-term transport timescale of the Chesapeake Bay. Estuar Coast Shelf Sci 74: 585–598CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    Shen J, Sisson M, Kuo AY, Boon J, Kim S (1997) Three-dimensional numerical modeling of the tidal York River system, Virginia. In: Spaulding ML, Blumberg AF (eds) Estuarine and coastal modeling. Proceedings of the fifth international conference. Alexandria, Virginia, USA, pp 495–510Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    Sisson GM, Shen J, Kim S-C, Boon J, Kuo AY (1997) VIMS Three dimensional hydrodynamic-eutrophication Model (HEM-3D): application of the hydrodynamic model to York River system. Special report in Applied Marine Science and Ocean Engineering, No. 341. Virginia Institute of Marine Science, The College of William and Mary, Gloucester Point, VirginiaGoogle Scholar
  36. 36.
    Takeoka H (1984) Fundamental concepts of exchange and transport time scales in a coastal sea. Cont Shelf Res 3(3): 322–326CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. 37.
    White L, Deleersnijder E (2007) Diagnoses of vertical transport in a three dimensional finite-element model of the tidal circulation around an island. Estuar Coast Shelf Sci 74(4): 735–749CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. 38.
    Zimmerman JTF (1976) Mixing and flushing of tidal embayments in the Western Dutch Wadden Sea, part I: distribution of salinity and calculation of mixing time scales. Neth J Sea Res 10: 149–191CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Marine ScienceSun Yat-Sen UniversityGuangzhouChina
  2. 2.Virginia Institute of Marine ScienceGloucester PointUSA

Personalised recommendations