Sediment distribution and depositional processes along the fluvial to marine transition zone of the Mekong River delta, Vietnam

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Abstract

The area of coastal rivers with a combination of fluvial, tidal and wave processes is defined as the fluvial to marine transition zone and can extend up to several hundreds of kilometres upstream of the river mouth. The aim of this study is to improve the understanding of sediment distribution and depositional processes along the fluvial to marine transition zone using a comprehensive dataset of channel bed sediment samples collected from the Mekong River delta. Six sediment types were identified and were interpreted to reflect the combined action of fluvial and marine processes. Based on sediment-type associations, the Mekong fluvial to marine transition zone could be subdivided into an upstream tract and a downstream tract; the boundary between these two tracts is identified 80 to 100 km upstream of the river mouth. The upstream tract is characterized by gravelly sand and sand and occasional heterolithic rhythmites, suggesting bed-load supply and deposition mainly controlled by fluvial processes with subordinate tidal influence. The downstream tract is characterized by heterolithic rhythmites with subordinate sand and mud, suggesting suspended-load supply and deposition mainly controlled by tidal processes with subordinate fluvial influence. Sediment distributions during wet and dry seasons suggest significant seasonal changes in sediment dynamic and depositional processes along the fluvial to marine transition zone. The upstream tract shows strong fluvial depositional processes with subordinate tidal influence during the wet season and no deposition with weak fluvial and tidal processes during the dry season. The downstream tract shows strong coexisting fluvial and tidal depositional processes during the wet season and strong tidal depositional processes with negligible fluvial influence during the dry season. Turbidity maxima are present along the downstream tract of the fluvial to marine transition zone during both wet and dry seasons and are driven by a combination of fluvial, tidal and wave processes.

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