Papenmeier, S.; Schrottke, K.; Bartholomä, A. and Flemming, B.W., 2013. Sedimentological and rheological properties of the water-solid bed interface in the Weser and Ems estuaries, North Sea, Germany: Implications for fluid mud classification. Journal of Coastal Research, 29(4), 797-808. Coconut Creek (Florida), ISSN 0749-0208.
Fine, cohesive sediment suspensions are a common feature of estuarine environments. Generally, multilayer models are used to describe the vertical distribution of such sediments. Such conceptional models normally distinguish at least high suspended sediment concentrations (SSCs) as a topmost layer and a consolidated bed layer, often including an intermediate, fluid mud layer. Rheological, and in particular sedimentological properties are rarely included in these models. New data from two different estuaries provide new insights that can contribute toward the classification of near-bed cohesive sediments. The water-solid bed interfaces within the turbidity maximum zones of the Weser and Ems estuaries were sampled with 2-4-m-long cores. At 10-cm intervals, values of SSC, viscosity, particulate organic matter, mud: sand ratio, temperature, salinity, and grain-size distributions were determined. By normalizing these parameters to SSC and performing a cluster analysis, sediment suspensions of <20 g/L SSC, fluid mud with up to 500 g/L SSC, and an underlying cohesive/consolidated bed can each clearly be distinguished. However, changes in flow behaviour and sedimentological characteristics represented by a shift in the cluster grouping support a subdivision of the fluid mud into a low-viscosity (I) (20-200 g/L SSC) and a high-viscosity (II) (200-500 g/L SSC) layer. Furthermore, by normalizing SSC measurements, site-specific differences were observed in the rheological behaviour of the fluid mud which might be caused by differences in grain-size composition. This suggests that the widely accepted 3-layer model of vertical SSC profiles should be extended by two layers of fluid mud identified in this study.