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Mar Pollut Bull. 2012;65(4-9):236-48. doi: 10.1016/j.marpolbul.2012.01.043. Epub 2012 Feb 24.

Fine sediment and nutrient dynamics related to particle size and floc formation in a Burdekin River flood plume, Australia.

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  • 1School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, James Cook University, Townsville, QLD 4811, Australia.


The extreme 2010-2011 wet season resulted in highly elevated Burdekin River discharge into the Great Barrier Reef lagoon for a period of 200 days, resulting in a large flood plume extending >50km offshore and >100km north during peak conditions. Export of suspended sediment was dominated by clay and fine silt fractions and most sediment initially settled within ∼10km of the river mouth. Biologically-mediated flocculation of these particles enhanced deposition in the initial low salinity zone. Fine silt and clay particles and nutrients remaining in suspension, were carried as far as 100km northward from the mouth, binding with planktonic and transparent exopolymer particulate matter to form large floc aggregates (muddy marine snow). These aggregates, due to their sticky nature, likely pose a risk to benthic organisms e.g. coral and seagrass through smothering, and also by contributing to increased turbidity during wind-induced resuspension events.

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