Virginia Institute of Marine Science
Journal of Marine Science and Engineering
The natural stratification and interlocking “organization” of armored sediments in heterogeneous, coarse-grained, beaches provides protection and enhances habitat for borrowing sedentary megafauna and macrofauna such as hard-shelled clams. Here, we develop a novel metric for quantifying sediment organization of large surficial beach clasts through sedimentologic and photogrammetric analyses of 37 lower intertidal heterogeneous gravel beaches in western Prince William Sound, Alaska (USA). Grain size, photogrammetric, and Wolman Pebble Count clast-size data from 64, ~1-m2 study plots are combined into a clast-size-independent “Organization Metric” to quantify the degree of organization in the meshed arrangement of larger surficial sediments. This metric was validated through field manipulation experiments and comparisons of adjacent plots characterized by different clast sizes. Application of this metric to subsets of Prince William Sound beaches that underwent differential treatment following the Exxon Valdez oil spill reveals persistent physical effects of artificial beach disturbance even 21 years after the cleanup. This has important implications for beach management (e.g., cleaning or dredging) and for the diverse and productive sedentary megafaunal assemblages that live within these sediments. Overall, this study provides a new approach for quantifying organization of heterogenous coarse sediments in diverse natural settings; in particular, heterogenous gravel beaches.
heterogenous clastic beach; gravel armoring; sediment organization
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Lees, Dennis C.; Hein, Christopher J.; and Fitzgerald, Duncan M., Measuring Organization of Large Surficial Clasts in Heterogeneous Gravel Beach Sediments (2022). Journal of Marine Science and Engineering, 10(4), 525-525.