Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Virginia Institute of Marine Science


Courtney K. Harris


Poverty Bay is a small embayment located in the middle of the Waipaoa River Sedimentary Dispersal System (WSS) on the eastern coast of the north island of New Zealand. Within this dispersal system, a large multidisciplinary study was focused on determining the sediment routing from the source within the headwaters to the locations of sediment accumulation on the continental shelf and slope. Poverty Bay acts as the land to sea transition area in the WSS, and as such significantly modifies the fluvial sedimentary signal before it is exported to the continental shelf. Until this study, little hydrodynamic or sediment-transport work had been conducted in Poverty Bay, however. This dissertation analyzed observation and numerical model results to characterize the hydrodynamics and sediment-transport within Poverty Bay. Three S4 current meters with pressure and temperature/salinity sensors, one upward looking ADCP, and one downward looking ADV were deployed in Poverty Bay for April--September, 2006. Hydrodynamics, sediment-transport, and waves were modeled using the Regional Ocean Modeling System (ROMS) fully coupled to the Simulated WAves Nearshore (SWAN) model. The 2006 winter wet season was modeled to overlap with the field observations, along with a ∼40 yr recurrence interval storm that occurred from 21--23 October, 2005. For these two meteorological conditions, four different model grid and sediment load configurations were modeled; (1) the modern Poverty Bay with the modern sediment load, (2) the modern Poverty Bay with the pre-anthropogenic (PA) sediment load, (3) the 2 kya Poverty Bay with the PA sediment load, and (4) the 7 kya Poverty Bay with the PA sediment load. Both the observation and modeling results showed significant quantities of fine sediment were ephemerally deposited within the shallow Poverty Bay during times of elevated river discharge and energetic waves and currents. The deposition of sediment within Poverty Bay during floods followed by the resuspension and export to the continental shelf during subsequent wave events created multiple pulses of sediment out of Poverty Bay. as the sediment underwent multiple resuspension episodes, the sedimentary signal initially supplied by the river, such as the timing of supply to the shelf and the grain size distribution, would be altered. Shoreward nearshore currents and a divergence in the currents seaward of the Waipaoa River mouth provided mechanisms for the segregation of the sand from the muddy sediment, with the coarse sediment preferentially moved shoreward and the fine sediment exported from Poverty Bay to deeper water. Model results also showed significant differences between the sedimentary signals supplied to the continental shelf based on the dispersal basin geometry and river mouth orientation. The model estimates showed that marine dispersal can influence the long-term trends of a slowing shoreline progradation rate and coarsening upward sequences on the continental shelf, without invoking climate change or changes to the sediment supply. This implies that the processes controlling marine and nearshore sediment dispersal must be considered when developing hypothesis based on sedimentological observations.



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