Continuous in situ monitoring of sediment deposition in shallow benthic environments

Whinney, James, Jones, Ross, Duckworth, Alan, and Ridd, Peter (2017) Continuous in situ monitoring of sediment deposition in shallow benthic environments. Coral Reefs, 36. pp. 521-533.

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Sedimentation is considered the most widespread contemporary, human-induced perturbation on reefs, and yet if the problems associated with its estimation using sediment traps are recognized, there have been few reliable measurements made over time frames relevant to the local organisms. This study describes the design, calibration and testing of an in situ optical backscatter sediment deposition sensor capable of measuring sedimentation over intervals of a few hours. The instrument has been reconfigured from an earlier version to include 15 measurement points instead of one, and to have a more rugose measuring surface with a microtopography similar to a coral. Laboratory tests of the instrument with different sediment types, colours, particle sizes and under different flow regimes gave similar accumulation estimates to SedPods, but lower estimates than sediment traps. At higher flow rates (9--17 cm s−1), the deposition sensor and SedPods gave estimates >10× lower than trap accumulation rates. The instrument was deployed for 39 d in a highly turbid inshore area in the Great Barrier Reef. Sediment deposition varied by several orders of magnitude, occurring in either a relatively uniform (constant) pattern or a pulsed pattern characterized by short-term (4--6 h) periods of `enhanced' deposition, occurring daily or twice daily and modulated by the tidal phase. For the whole deployment, which included several very high wind events and suspended sediment concentrations (SSCs) >100 mg L−1, deposition rates averaged 19 ± 16 mg cm−2 d−1. For the first half of the deployment, where SSCs varied from <1 to 28 mg L−1 which is more typical for the study area, the deposition rate averaged only 8 ± 5 mg cm−2 d−1. The capacity to measure sedimentation rates over a few hours is discussed in terms of examining the risk from sediment deposition associated with catchment run-off, natural wind/wave events and dredging activities.

Item ID: 74823
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1432-0975
Copyright Information: © Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.
Funders: WAMSI
Projects and Grants: WAMSI Dredging Science Node
Date Deposited: 12 Jun 2022 23:52
FoR Codes: 37 EARTH SCIENCES > 3708 Oceanography > 370803 Physical oceanography @ 100%
SEO Codes: 18 ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT > 1802 Coastal and estuarine systems and management > 180205 Measurement and assessment of estuarine water quality @ 100%
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