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Biogeochemistry of Estuaries$
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Thomas S. Bianchi

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780195160826

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780195160826.001.0001

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Sources and Distribution of Sediments

Sources and Distribution of Sediments

(p.103) Chapter 6 Sources and Distribution of Sediments
Biogeochemistry of Estuaries

Thomas S. Bianchi

Oxford University Press

The uplift of rocks above sea level on the Earth’s surface over geological time, produces rock material that can be altered into soils and sediments by weathering processes. Over geological time, a fraction of sediments can be sequestered for storage in the ocean basins—with most of it stored in the coastal margin. However, much of this material is modified via processing in large river estuarine systems which can ultimately affect the long-term fate of these terrigenous materials. Sediments produced from weathering of igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary rocks are principally transported to the oceans through river systems of the world. The major routes of sediment transport from land to the open ocean can simply be illustrated through the following sequence: streams, rivers, estuaries, shallow coastal waters, canyons, and the abyssal ocean. It should be noted that significant and long-term storage occurs in river valleys and floodplains (Meade, 1996). Submarine canyons are also thought to be temporary storage sites for land-derived sediments; however, episodic events such as turbidity currents and mud slides can move these sediments from canyons to the abyssal ocean (more details on coastal margin transport to the deep ocean are provided in chapter 16). The annual sediment flux from rivers to the global ocean is estimated to range from 18 to 24 × 109 metric tonnes (Milliman and Syvitski, 1992). Conversely, estuaries will eventually fill-in with fluvial inputs of sediments over time, and ultimately reach an equilibrium whereby export and import of sediment supply are balanced (Meade, 1969). For example, recent studies have shown that sediment accumulation in the Hudson River estuary, both short (Olsen et al., 1978) and long term (Peteet and Wong, 2000), is in equilibrium with sea level rise. More specifically, it is believed that river flow controls the direction of sediment flux in the Hudson, while variations in spring-neap tidal amplitude control the magnitude (Geyer et al., 2001). Weathering is typically separated into two categories: physical and chemical. Physical weathering involves the fragmentation of parent rock materials and minerals through processes such as freezing, thawing, heating, cooling, and bioturbation (e.g., endolithic algae, fungi, plant roots, and earthworms).

Keywords:   chemical weathering processes, physical weathering processes, primary minerals, secondary minerals, sedimentation

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