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Seasonal changes in diatom biomass, sediment stability and biogenic stabilization in the Severn Estuary

  • Graham J. C. Underwood (a1) and David M. Paterson (a2)


Epipelic diatoms represented the dominant microphy tobenthos on the intertidal mudflats of the Severn Estuary, south-western Britain. Algal biomass (measured as chlorophyll a concentration) varied over a seasonal cycle and was strongly correlated with sediment shear strength and critical shear stress and therefore with position on the shore. High levels of diatom biomass were positively correlated with the concentration of colloidal carbohydrate within the surface sediments. The critical shear strength for incipient erosion was significantly correlated with position on the shore (moisture content) and with both chlorophyll a and colloidal carbohydrate, the latter being the best biochemical predictor for the incipient erosion threshold. The range of stress required to cause incipient erosion varied from 1.0 to 8.0 N m-2, with the sediment increasing in resistance landwards. Two-way analysis of variance using both moisture content and colloidal carbohydrate as variables explained the stability of the sediment better than individual pair-wise comparisons.



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