Field studies of velocity, salinity and suspended solids concentration in a shallow tidal channel near tidal flap gates

S.B. Mitchell, H.M. Burgess, David Pope, A. Theodoridou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The design and operation of mathematical models of solute mixing and sediment transport in estuaries rely heavily on the provision of good-quality field data. We present some observations of salinity, suspended sediment concentration and velocity at one of the tidal limits of a semi-enclosed tidal lagoon in Southern England (Pagham Harbour, West Sussex, UK) where the natural processes of tidal incursion and solute mixing have been heavily modified as a result of the construction of sea walls dating back to the 18th Century. These observations, made immediately downstream of two parallel tidal flap gates by conductivity-temperature-depth (CTD) profiler, and also using bed-mounted sensor frames to measure velocity at 2 fixed depths, have yielded a set of results covering 11 tidal cycles over the period 2002–04. It is clear from the results obtained that over a typical tidal cycle, the greatest vertical salinity gradients occur in the 1–2 h immediately after the onset of the flood tide, and that subsequently, energetic mixing acts to rapidly break down this stratification. Under moderate-to-high fresh water flows (<0.5 m3/s), the break-down in vertical salinity gradient is more gradual, while under low fresh water flows (<0.2 m3/s), the vertical salinity gradient is generally less pronounced. Estimates of Richardson number during the early flood-tide period reveal values that vary rapidly between <1 and about 20, with lower values occurring after around 1.5–2 h after low water. Observations of suspended sediment concentration vary widely even for similar tidal and fresh water flow conditions, revealing the possible influence of wind speed, the storage effects of the water in the lagoon downstream of the observation site, and the complexity of the hydrodynamics downstream of tidal flap gates. The data also show that most of the sediment transport is landward, and occurs during flood tides, with estimated total tidal landward flood tide flux of fine sediment of the order of 50–120 kg under low fresh water flow conditions. These observations, which reinforce the results presented in Warner et al. (2004) and elsewhere, can help to provide information about the appropriate techniques for managing sediments and pollutants, including nutrients from sewage effluent waters, in estuaries where hydraulic flap gates are used to control the entry of fresh water over the tidal cycle.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)385-395
Number of pages11
JournalEstuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2008


  • tidal lagoon
  • stratification
  • suspended sediments
  • siltation
  • flap gates


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