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Free Content Field assessment of sediment trap efficiency under varying flow conditions

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Knowledge of the collection efficiency of sediment traps, particularly under conditions of varying current speed, is presently more a matter of hope than confidence. We report here on a field experiment designed to determine, for a particular trap geometry, the effect of current speed and particle fall velocity on the collection efficiency of a moored trap relative to the presumably unbiased efficiency of an identical drifting trap. The experiment was performed in a deep estuarine tidal passage where a smoothly varying unidirectional flow and a spatially homogenous particle population mimicked laboratory flume conditions. A multiple-sample sediment trap integrated to a current meter partitioned the mass flux collected by the moored trap into one of four chambers according to the following speed intervals: <12, 12–<30, 30–<50, and ≥50cm/s. The magnitude and particle characteristics of the flux collected at <12 cm/s were indistinguishable from those simultaneously collected by drifting traps. At higher speeds, the relative efficiency of the moored trap ranged between 1% and 24% and the mean size and density of the trapped particles increased. These results support predictions based on laboratory studies that collection efficiency decreases with an increase in the trap Reynolds number or a decrease in particle fall velocity. The study demonstrates that consideration must be given to scaling both trap diameter and aspect ratio according to the expected flow conditions, and that knowledge of flow conditions at the trap mouth is necessary to properly interpret the flux data.

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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: August 1, 1988

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  • The Journal of Marine Research, one of the oldest journals in American marine science, publishes peer-reviewed research articles covering a broad array of topics in physical, biological and chemical oceanography. Articles that deal with processes, as well as those that report significant observations, are welcome. Biological studies involving coupling between ecological and physical processes are preferred over those that report systematics. The editors strive always to serve authors and readers in the academic oceanographic community by publishing papers vital to the marine research in the long and rich tradition of the Sears Foundation for Marine Research. We welcome you to the Journal of Marine Research.
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