Skip to content

Research at St Andrews

Small-scale temporal and spatial variability in the erosion threshold and properties of cohesive intertidal sediments

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


T.J. Tolhurst, E.C. Defew, J.F.C. de Brouwer, K. Wolfstein, L. Stal, David Maxwell Paterson

School/Research organisations


Intertidal mudflats can be highly patchy due to both biotic and abiotic variability. The problems caused by such patchiness for the measurement of the erosion threshold of sediments has only received limited attention, primarily because of the limitations of the devices used to measure erosion threshold. The cohesive strength meter (CSM) erosion device partly overcomes these problems because it can collect numerous Measurements in a short time. This paper assesses the effects of site selection, small-scale spatial patchiness in a diatom biofilm and small-scale temporal variability over a tidal emersion on file measurement of erosion thresholds of cohesive intertidal sediments. Measurements were made with three CSM devices over a complete tidal emersion and at the beginning of the next emersion in the Westerschelde estuary. the Netherlands, in April 2001. Three different criteria were used in site selection: random sampling, random sampling with a user-bias towards visible diatom biofilms and sampling of only visible diatom biofilm areas. This resulted in different patterns of the measured sediment erodability. Contact core samples were collected to measure bio-dependant properties of the sediment known to influence erosion characteristics (water content and carbohydrates). In addition, variations in algal biomass (F-0(15)) over time were measured at the sediment surface with a fluorescence monitoring system (FMS). Three different operational extractions of carbohydrates were analysed to assess the roles of different carbohydrates in stabilising the sediment (colloidal-S-, EDTA- extracted and ETOH-precipitated).

Different responses in the erosion threshold to the tidal emersion were found depending upon the presence or absence of a diatom biofilm and on the sampling strategy used. Areas with a visible diatom biofilm showed a rapid increase in erosion threshold at the beginning of the emersion, whilst areas without a visible biofilm tended to show an increase at the end of emersion. Both colloidal-S and ETOH carbohydrate correlated with erosion threshold. F-0(15) Correlated with erosion threshold at the beginning of the emersion period, but this relationship became progressively weaker during the course of emersion. The implications of patchy biota, small-scale variability and temporal changes in erosion threshold for measuring the stability of sediments over a tidal cycle are discussed. (c) 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.



Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)351-362
Number of pages12
JournalContinental Shelf Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2006

    Research areas


Discover related content
Find related publications, people, projects and more using interactive charts.

View graph of relations

Related by author

  1. Biological cohesion as the architect of bed movement under wave action

    Chen, X., Zhang, C., Townend, I., Paterson, D. M., Gong, Z., Jiang, Q., Feng, Q. & Yu, X., 16 Mar 2021, In: Geophysical Research Letters. 48, 5, e2020GL092137.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

  2. Ecosystem engineers drive differing microbial community composition in intertidal estuarine sediments

    Wyness, A. J., Fortune, I., Blight, A. J., Browne, P., Hartley, M., Holden, M. & Paterson, D. M., 19 Feb 2021, In: PLoS ONE. 16, 2, 20 p., e0240952.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

  3. Editorial: Advances and challenges in microphytobenthos research: from cell biology to coastal ecosystem function

    Serôdio, J., Paterson, D. M., Méléder, V. & Vyverman, W., 12 Nov 2020, In: Frontiers in Marine Science. 7, 3 p., 608729.

    Research output: Contribution to journalEditorialpeer-review

  4. Interactions between sediment microbial ecology and physical dynamics drive heterogeneity in contextually similar depositional systems

    Hope, J., Malarkey, J., Baas, J., Peakall, J., Parsons, D., Manning, A. J., Bass, S., Lichtman, I., Thorne, P., Ye, L. & Paterson, D. M., Oct 2020, In: Limnology and Oceanography. 65, 10, p. 2403-2419 17 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

  5. Biomediation of submarine sediment gravity flow dynamics

    Craig, M. J., Baas, J. H., Amos, K. J., Strachan, L. J., Manning, A. J., Paterson, D. M., Hope, J. A., Nodder, S. D. & Baker, M. L., Jan 2020, In: Geology. 48, 1, p. 72-76

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Related by journal

  1. Continental Shelf Research (Journal)

    Craig Smeaton (Reviewer)

    2017 → …

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial work typesPeer review of manuscripts

Related by journal

  1. Adaptations of microphytobenthos assemblages to sediment type and tidal position

    Jesus, B., Brotas, V., Ribeiro, L., Mendes, C. R., Cartaxana, P. & Paterson, D. M., 30 Jun 2009, In: Continental Shelf Research. 29, 13, p. 1624-1634 11 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

  2. The effects of simulated rain on the erosion threshold and biogeochemical properties of intertidal sediments

    Tolhurst, T. J., Watts, C. W., Vardy, S., Saunders, J. E., Consalvey, M. C. & Paterson, D. M., 30 Jun 2008, In: Continental Shelf Research. 28, p. 1217-1230 14 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

  3. Calibration of the high pressure Cohesive Strength Meter (CSM)

    Vardy, S., Saunders, J., Tolhurst, T. J., Davis, P. & Paterson, D. M., 1 May 2007, In: Continental Shelf Research. 27, 8, p. 1190-1199 10 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

  4. Small scale temporal and spatial variability in the erosion threhold and properties of cohesive intertidal sediments

    Tolhurst, T., Defew, E. C., de Brouwer, J., Wolfstein, K., Stal, L. & Paterson, D. M., 2006, In: Continental Shelf Research. 26, 3, p. 351-362 11 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

ID: 306884