Comparison of sediment grain size characteristics on nourished and un-nourished estuarine beaches and impacts on horseshoe crab habitat, Delaware Bay, New Jersey

Nancy L. Jackson, David R. Smith, Karl F. Nordstrom

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11 Scopus citations

Abstract

This study was undertaken to determine whether nourished and un-nourished estuarine beaches have conspicuous differences in sediment size and sorting that could affect their value as habitat for horseshoe crabs. Comparisons are made of beach profiles and sediment samples gathered at 0.15 m and 0.30 m depths on the backshore, at spring tide elevation, neap tide elevation, and the lower foreshore on 5 un-nourished and 3 nourished beaches in Delaware Bay, where tidal range is <2.0 m. The backshore is at least 0.5 m higher on the recently nourished beaches than on a nearby un-nourished beach reworked by storm waves. Nourishing these beaches to elevations higher than natural overwash heights will restrict natural evolution of the upper beach. Sediments at spring tide elevation on un-nourished sites average 0.72 mm in diameter at 0.15 m depth and 0.67 mm at 0.30 m depth.The similarity in size implies a relatively deep active layer in the zone of maximum cut and fill associated with cyclic profile change during low frequency, high magnitude storms. Sedimentary changes at neap tide elevation may be influenced more by depth of activation by waves than by cycles of deposition and erosion. Sediment at 0.15 m depth at spring and neap locations on the foreshore of nourished beaches is finer (0.51 mm) and better sorted (0.82 phi) than at 0.30 m depth (0.91 mm, 1.38 phi), implying that waves have not reworked the deeper sediments. Differences in sediment characteristics at depth may persist on eroding nourished beaches, where unreworked fill is close to the surface. Sediment texture influences horseshoe crab egg viability and development. Lower rates of water movement through the foreshore and greater thickness of the capillary fringe on nourished sites suggests that greater moisture retention will occur where horseshoe crabs bury eggs and may provide more favorable conditions for egg development, but the depth of these conditions will not be great on a recently nourished beach.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)31-45
Number of pages15
JournalZeitschrift fur Geomorphologie, Supplementband
Volume141
StatePublished - Dec 1 2005

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geology

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