Articles | Volume 39
01 Apr 2014
 | 01 Apr 2014

Repeated erosion of cohesive sediments with biofilms

K. Valentine, G. Mariotti, and S. Fagherazzi

Abstract. This study aims to explore the interplay between biofilms and erodability of cohesive sediments. Erosion experiments were run in four laboratory annular flumes with natural sediments. After each erosion the sediment was allowed to settle, mimicking intermittent physical processes like tidal currents and waves. The time between consecutive erosion events ranged from 1 to 12 days. Turbidity of the water column caused by sediment resuspension was used to determine the erodability of the sediments with respect to small and moderate shear stresses. Erodability was also compared on the basis of the presence of benthic biofilms, which were quantified using a Pulse-Amplitude Modulation (PAM) Underwater Fluorometer. We found that frequent erosion lead to the establishment of a weak biofilm, which reduced sediment erosion at small shear stresses (around 0.1 Pa). If prolonged periods without erosion were present, the biofilm fully established, resulting in lower erosion at moderate shear stresses (around 0.4 Pa). We conclude that an unstructured extracellular polymeric substances (EPS) matrix always affect sediment erodability at low shear stresses, while only a fully developed biofilm mat can reduce sediment erodability at moderate shear stresses.