The analysis of grain-size distribution enables us to decipher sediment transport processes and understand the causal relations between dynamic processes and grain-size distributions. In the present study, grain sizes were measured from surface sediments collected in the Pearl River Estuary and its adjacent coastal areas. End-member modeling analysis attempts to unmix the grain sizes into geologically meaningful populations. Six grain-size end-members were identified. Their dominant modes are 0 Φ, 1.5 Φ, 2.75 Φ, 4.5 Φ, 7 Φ, and 8 Φ, corresponding to coarse sand, medium sand, fine sand, very coarse silt, silt, and clay, respectively. The spatial distributions of the six end-members are influenced by sediment transport and depositional processes. The two coarsest end-members (coarse sand and medium sand) may reflect relict sediments deposited during the last glacial period. The fine sand end-member would be difficult to transport under fair weather conditions, and likely indicates storm deposits. The three remaining fine-grained end-members (very coarse silt, silt, and clay) are recognized as suspended particles transported by saltwater intrusion via the flood tidal current, the Guangdong Coastal Current, and riverine outflow. The grain-size trend analysis shows distinct transport patterns for the three fine-grained end-members. The landward transport of the very coarse silt end-member occurs in the eastern part of the estuary, the seaward transport of the silt end-member occurs in the western part, and the east–west transport of the clay end-member occurs in the coastal areas. The results show that grain-size end-member modeling analysis in combination with sediment trend analysis help to better understand sediment transport patterns and the associated transport mechanisms.
Geo-Marine Letters – Springer Journals
Published: Jul 8, 2017
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