MEPS 256:63-74 (2003)  -  doi:10.3354/meps256063

Impact of Enteromorpha intestinalis mats on near-bed currents and sediment dynamics: flume studies

C. Romano1,2, J. Widdows1,*, M. D. Brinsley1, F. J. Staff1

1Plymouth Marine Laboratory, Prospect Place, West Hoe, Plymouth PL1 3DH, United Kingdom
2Present address: Marine Biology and Sea Resource Research Group, Animal Biology Department, University of Palermo, Via Archirafi 18, 90123 Palermo, Italy
*Corresponding author. Email:

ABSTRACT: The influence of the macroalgal mats of Enteromorpha intestinalis on near-bed current velocities and sediment dynamics was quantified by placing relatively undisturbed cored sediments in annular flumes. Density-dependent relationships were established for E. intestinalis densities; these ranged from 10 to 60% cover when air-exposed (biomass of 4 to 40 g ash-free dry wt m-2) and in comparison with bare sediment (0% cover). There was a significant increase in friction drag with increasing E. intestinalis biomass and percent cover, ranging from a mean 18% reduction in current velocities at 10% cover to 56% reduction at 60% cover. The net result of a reduction in currents (depth-averaged between 1 to 12 cm above the bed) and the physical protection of the bed by Enteromorpha was a marked reduction in sediment erosion of 60% at 10% cover to 90% at 60% cover. The presence of E. intestinalis also significantly enhanced sediment deposition measured as a flux from the water column to the bed. At 60% cover the deposition rate was 48% higher than on bare sediment during the first 30 min of slack water (<0.05 m s-1). The results show that E. intestinalis has a marked influence on water flow over the bed and the flux of particulate material across the sediment-water interface.


KEY WORDS: Enteromorpha · Macroalgal mats · Flumes · Current velocity · Sediment erosion · Deposition


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