Tidal Mass Exchange Between a Submersed Aquatic Vegetation Bed and the Main Channel of the Potomac River

by Harry L. Jenter, U.S. Geological Survey, Reston, United States,
Nancy B. Rybicki, U.S. Geological Survey, Reston, United States,
Robert A. Baltzer, U.S. Geological Survey, Reston, United States,
Virginia Carter, U.S. Geological Survey, Reston, United States,

Document Type: Proceeding Paper

Part of: Hydraulic Engineering


Tidal mass exchange between a submersed aquatic vegetation (SAV) bed and the main channel of the Potomac River was investigated. Water levels were recorded at 5 minute intervals from August (when plants were present) through December (when plants were absent). Velocities were measured during individual tidal cycles both in the presence and absence of plants. Flow patterns were found to be altered significantly when plants were present. SAV impeded flow onto the shoal causing a water level phase lag between the bed and the channel, a reduction in flow speed and a change in flow direction. The phase lag was enhanced when the low frequency (subtidal) water level in the channel was below normal. The phase lag was further enhanced during spring tides. Ebb flow in the presence of plants was perpendicular to the edge of the SAV bed in the direction of the pressure gradient established by the lagging water level. Flood flow did not follow such a predictable pattern despite the strongest pressure gradients occurring during flood tides. In the absence of plants the flow speed increased by nearly an order of magnitude and the water-level phase lag disappeared.

Subject Headings: Tides | Vegetation | Aquatic habitats | Channels (waterway) | Water level | Flow patterns | Flow measurement | River and stream beds | Potomac River

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