Realistic Sedimentary Bedform Prediction: Incorporating Physical and Biological Cohesion (COHBED)

Lead Research Organisation: University of St Andrews
Department Name: Biology

Abstract

The United Kingdom is a coastal nation with the majority of the population living within a few miles of an estuary or the sea. The nature of the coastline depends on the local conditions of geology and water flow. Rocky coastlines are found where the energy of the sea is high, while mud and sand are found where the energy is lower and these sediments can be deposited. These low energy muddy and sandy (depositional) habitats, are very important for the ecology and economy of the UK. They provide food for many species of birds and fish, but also protect the coastline from the erosive forces of the sea. In addition, they act as a "filter", where pollutants from the rivers are captured and eventually degraded. Because of the importance of these systems, their natural behaviour and stability is of increasing concern as sea levels rise and storm events increase in frequency with climate change. The movement of sediment around the coast of Britain has vast economic and ecological consequences, but surprisingly we have very little scientific information that helps us to predict how natural mudflats and beaches will respond to the changing forces of the tides, wind and waves. When water flows over the sea bottom, the energy of the flow shapes the sediment into wavy features called bedforms (such as ripples). These bedforms help control the erosion and transport of sand, mud, nutrients and pollutants. Information allowing us to predict the shape, size and movement of bedforms is essential for environmental management, hydraulic engineering, benthic habitat biology, computer modelling of particle transport, sedimentary geology, and many other scientific disciplines. However, there is an almost complete lack of knowledge concerning bedforms consisting of mixtures of sand and mud. Sandy sediments are known to be "non-cohesive", because the sand particles do not stick together, whereas muds are made up of smaller particles that do stick together and so are called "cohesive" sediments.

This project, COHBED, will take advantage of the latest developments in measurement technologies to produce information about the growth, movement and stability of bedforms that consist of natural mixtures of sands and muds, a natural condition that is very common but has rarely been studied before. In a new departure, this work includes a multidisciplinary team to combine the physics, mathematics, sedimentology, and biology of these systems, since we recognise that the organisms (from bacteria to sea grasses) that inhabit natural systems also change the erosional characteristics and bedform behaviour. This is why COHBED will include laboratory experiments and field surveys. A series of experiments in laboratory flow channels will investigate key factors that control the behaviour and properties of bedforms, such as:
- System energy: effects of flow velocity, bed friction and flow depth
- Bed properties: particle size, proportion of mud and sand, and biological effects
- Time: the speed of bedform growth and rate of change as flow energy changes
- Particle erosion: changes in the bedforms as smaller particles are eroded away

The results of the laboratory studies will be compared with the behaviour of natural systems. Field surveys will be conducted to validate the predictions derived from the laboratory studies, using new techniques that for the first time allow essential simultaneous measurements of flow, sediment and bedform properties. The COHBED project will maintain the UK at the forefront of this research area and will help us to manage our coasts in the face of climate change.

Planned Impact

The main beneficiaries of the timely knowledge on mixed cohesive bedform dynamics arising from COHBED are all users who depend on more accurate models for the transport of particulate and dissolved matter in aquatic environments. There is a unique opportunity to implement the results of COHBED into improved predictive tools for bedform development, equilibrium morphology and migration, as well as for bed roughness parameters and suspended load concentration profiles that are closely related to bedform properties. These models will be directly applicable, while also forming the basis for future regional sediment transport modelling efforts in complex natural environments.

Scientists will benefit as this project will spark collaborative research in the largely unexplored field of biology- and physics-controlled cohesive mixed sediment dynamics and the project outcomes will provide a vehicle for facilitating more reliable palaeo-environmental reconstructions and improving numerical models of sediment transport. A Numerical Modelling Advisory Committee will be an integral part of COHBED. This committee of independent experts will provide guidance how to ensure that the research outcomes of the laboratory and field experiments and, notably data requirements and data formats, are best obtained for future numerical modelling.

Engineers will benefit from the predictive outputs of modified bedform dynamics from cohesive forces in flows and bed surface sediments. These will help guarantee engineering success when extracting sediment or building structures in and on the sea bed (e.g. pipelines, wind turbines, tidal barrages, oil platforms).

Planning authorities and environmental advisers/managers will benefit from improved Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) to which the research outputs will contribute significantly, notably because the likely impacts of new sea bed developments need to be fully understood for engineering safety and habitat preservation. We will engage with these end users, and with engineers, through regular Progress Meetings and a Knowledge Exchange Workshop near the end of the project.

The hydrocarbon industry will benefit from improved architectural models of sedimentary facies and from more confidence in reconstructing and predicting the porosity and permeability of clastic sedimentary rocks in cores and outcrops. The results from this project will be disseminated through the industry-funded Turbidite Research Group (TRG), an internationally recognised leader in the study of deep marine clastic sedimentary systems, of which PI Baas is the Associate for Wales, and PI Parsons and Co-I Peakall are integral members.

Through national and international conference visits, a project website, popular science media and events, publications in international peer-reviewed journals, and a novel Travelling Exhibition "Shifting Seas, Shifting Sands" we will not only engage with our primary users, but we will also disseminate our project outcomes and their implications to the wider public.

The Centre for Catchment to Coastal research (CCCR), SEACAMS and the Society for Underwater Technology (SUT) will be used as vehicles to interact with academic partners, representatives of governmental bodies, and industry through regular seminars/workshops and small group discussion meetings. Our strong links with various branches of the offshore engineering industry will serve to refine experimental methodologies and identify optimal dissemination products. New knowledge will be exchanged with petroleum geologists at the bi-annular sponsor meetings of TRG, and potential users (including the members of the Advisory Committee) will be invited to attend regular Progress Meetings and the Knowledge Exchange Workshop.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description The work of COHBED extends our knowledge of the interactions of physical and biological processes in controlling sediment erosion. Essentially , the erodibility of sediments has largely been treated as a physical problem controlled by the resistance of particle to flow. However, in the rel world sediments are colonised by many forms of life ranging from mangroves to bacteria. Once colonised bay any lifer forms sediment no longer behave entirely independently. Think of salt marshes protection the coastline. Organisms make burrows, have roots, and secret "glues" which hold the sediments in place. COHBED has made a major interdisciplinary contribution to bringing together scientists studying the physics of sediment motion with the biologists who understand the ecology and behaviour of the organisms that inhabit these systems. This has led to a new planned projects, major new research collaborations and high impact papers
Exploitation Route More accurate models of sediment transport
Sectors Education,Environment,Transport

 
Description Discussion with company on the basis of sediment erosion
First Year Of Impact 2016
Sector Environment,Other
 
Description Meeting with the Exec Director Fife Coast and Countryside Trust
Geographic Reach Local/Municipal/Regional 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
Impact Importance of biodiversity and ecosystem service delivery enhanced supporting regulatory decision making
 
Description Regular meetings with local coastal user groups such as the Fife Coast and Countryside Trust Ranger, Scottish National Heritage and the West Sands Partnership forum.
Geographic Reach Local/Municipal/Regional 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
Impact Regular updates are provided to maintain open communication and amicable collaboration.
 
Description British Federation of Woman Graduates Scholarship for scientific merit and academic progress
Amount £2,000 (GBP)
Organisation British Federation of Women Graduates 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 08/2014 
 
Description Centre for Academic, Professional and Organisational Development (to attend SCENE course in statistics using R)
Amount £150 (GBP)
Organisation University of St Andrews 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 08/2014 
 
Description Post Graduate Research Fund
Amount £200 (GBP)
Organisation University of St Andrews 
Department School of Biology
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 12/2014 
 
Description Small Grants Scheme - Marine Alliance for Science and Technology for Scotland
Amount £500 (GBP)
Organisation Marine Alliance for Science and Technology for Scotland 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 07/2012 
End 12/2012
 
Description Small Grants Scheme - Marine Alliance for Science and Technology for Scotland
Amount £500 (GBP)
Organisation Marine Alliance for Science and Technology for Scotland 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 08/2014 
 
Description Student Bursary - British Phycological Society
Amount £650 (GBP)
Organisation British Phycological Society 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 06/2014 
 
Description Student Travel Grant
Amount $1,000 (USD)
Organisation American Geophysical Union 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United States
Start 12/2014 
 
Title EPS analysis 
Description Using u=new method for determing low levels of polymer of floc material from estuaries 
Type Of Material Biological samples 
Year Produced 2017 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Data fro papers in prep 
 
Description Floc characterisation of estuarine samples 
Organisation HR Wallingford Ltd
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution All biological processing and characterisation has been carried out by USTAN. All field work equipment provided by USTAN. Mass spectroscopy to determine sugar composition of samples will be performed by USTAN. Analysis of relationships between floc characteristics and biological data performed by USTAN. New technology and an innovative approach to examining floc structure and function from Prof Kate Spencer for visualising flocs and a new NERC proposal examining the role of organic molecules on the formation of flocs in the presence of xenobiotic compounds, being considered by NERC this year (2018)
Collaborator Contribution Use of the Labsfloc imaging suite and the expertise provided by Professor Andy Manning.
Impact Presented at AGU conference. Forms a chapter in PhD Thesis Technical report for HR Wallingford consultancy in preparation. Article in preparation Analysis still ongoing Biological and sedimentological disciplines New interdisciplinary NERC proposal (2018)
Start Year 2014
 
Description Floc characterisation of estuarine samples 
Organisation Queen Mary University of London
Department School of Geography
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution All biological processing and characterisation has been carried out by USTAN. All field work equipment provided by USTAN. Mass spectroscopy to determine sugar composition of samples will be performed by USTAN. Analysis of relationships between floc characteristics and biological data performed by USTAN. New technology and an innovative approach to examining floc structure and function from Prof Kate Spencer for visualising flocs and a new NERC proposal examining the role of organic molecules on the formation of flocs in the presence of xenobiotic compounds, being considered by NERC this year (2018)
Collaborator Contribution Use of the Labsfloc imaging suite and the expertise provided by Professor Andy Manning.
Impact Presented at AGU conference. Forms a chapter in PhD Thesis Technical report for HR Wallingford consultancy in preparation. Article in preparation Analysis still ongoing Biological and sedimentological disciplines New interdisciplinary NERC proposal (2018)
Start Year 2014
 
Description Floc characterisation of estuarine samples 
Organisation University of Hull
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution All biological processing and characterisation has been carried out by USTAN. All field work equipment provided by USTAN. Mass spectroscopy to determine sugar composition of samples will be performed by USTAN. Analysis of relationships between floc characteristics and biological data performed by USTAN. New technology and an innovative approach to examining floc structure and function from Prof Kate Spencer for visualising flocs and a new NERC proposal examining the role of organic molecules on the formation of flocs in the presence of xenobiotic compounds, being considered by NERC this year (2018)
Collaborator Contribution Use of the Labsfloc imaging suite and the expertise provided by Professor Andy Manning.
Impact Presented at AGU conference. Forms a chapter in PhD Thesis Technical report for HR Wallingford consultancy in preparation. Article in preparation Analysis still ongoing Biological and sedimentological disciplines New interdisciplinary NERC proposal (2018)
Start Year 2014
 
Description Floc characterisation of estuarine samples 
Organisation University of Plymouth
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution All biological processing and characterisation has been carried out by USTAN. All field work equipment provided by USTAN. Mass spectroscopy to determine sugar composition of samples will be performed by USTAN. Analysis of relationships between floc characteristics and biological data performed by USTAN. New technology and an innovative approach to examining floc structure and function from Prof Kate Spencer for visualising flocs and a new NERC proposal examining the role of organic molecules on the formation of flocs in the presence of xenobiotic compounds, being considered by NERC this year (2018)
Collaborator Contribution Use of the Labsfloc imaging suite and the expertise provided by Professor Andy Manning.
Impact Presented at AGU conference. Forms a chapter in PhD Thesis Technical report for HR Wallingford consultancy in preparation. Article in preparation Analysis still ongoing Biological and sedimentological disciplines New interdisciplinary NERC proposal (2018)
Start Year 2014
 
Description Najing University, China 
Organisation Nanjing University (NJU)
Country China 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Visited Nanjing University and established links with them for future research work and reciprocal visits. College of Harbour, Coastal Engineering, Hohai University, Nanjing, China Paper submitted Hindered erosion: The biological mediation of non-cohesive sediment behaviour X. D. Chen1, C. K. Zhang1, D. M. Paterson2, C. E. L. Thompson3, I. H. Townend4, Z. Gong1, Z. Zhou1 and Q. Feng5,6 Submitted
Collaborator Contribution Discussion of research methods, help in drafting papers and considering interpretation of results
Impact Chen XD, Zhang CK, Zhou Z, Gong Z, Zhou1 JJ, Tao JF, Paterson DM, Feng Q 2017. Stabilizing effects of bacterial biofilms: EPS penetration and redistribution of bed stability down the sediment profile. Journal of Geophysical Research-Biogeosciences, 22: 3113-3125. DOI: 10.1002/2017JG004050 Chen, XD, Zhang, CK, Paterson, DM, Thompson, CEL, Townend, IH, Gong, Z, Zhou, Z & Feng, Q 2017, 'Hindered erosion: the biological mediation of noncohesive sediment behavior' Water Resources Research, vol Early View. DOI: 10.1002/2016WR020105
Start Year 2016
 
Description AGU Fall Meeting - poster presentation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Several academics approached me to discuss poster and exchanged contact details for possible future collaborations

I was approached by AGU 2015 fall meeting session organiser to contribute to their session based on discussions at this meeting
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://fallmeeting.agu.org/
 
Description Educational outreach with two local high schools. 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Dissemination of coastal and ecological research to local schools and organised school visits to the university. To date this has focused on ecosystem function and services, sediment dynamics and coastal defences in the Eden estuary.
It involved delivering short presentations on work carried out at our research group, including that of the COHBED and CBESS projects, as well as field trips and laboratory work with students to learn various techniques and field skills.


The students gave good feedback and both schools have requested to repeat the experience in future years.
We hope to spark their interest in the local ecology and environment and also in science as a subject in the curriculum. The exercise will also hopefully go some way to helping achieve the aims of the curriculum for excellence in developing the children to become successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens, and effective contributors.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description EuroMarine Workshop, 2016 Linking biodiversity, ecosystem functioning and ecosystem services: a comparison between temperate and tropical seagrass meadows, Sete.with Claire Gollety 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact European workshop to plan future ITN proposal (in prep)
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description First Chances 2014 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact CBESS participated in the University of St Andrew's Summer School First Chances Programme.
- encouraged students to think about how we value the environment & what services nature provides

- collaboration with local high schools
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://synergy.st-andrews.ac.uk/cbess/science/progress-report/summer-outreach-at-st-andrews/
 
Description Invited Keynote Campus Do Mar Oceans Day 2016 One for all.The basis of interdisciplinary Science University of Tras os Montes and Alto Duro, Portugal 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Campus Do Mar Oceans Day 2016, annual event for Ph.d students and marine scientists
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Keynote ISRS , Stuttgart Germany 2016 Form, function and physics D. M. Paterson, J. M. Kenworthy Scottish Ocean Institute, School of Biology, University of St Andrews J. A. Hope, S.U. Gerbersdorf Institute for modelling hydraulic and environmental systems, University of Stuttgart 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact International research conference key note speech highlighting UK research
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Oral Presentation at the University of St Andrews Scottish Oceans Institute seminar series, Oct 2014 Biological influences on sediment dynamics in the Eden estuary 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact The presentation enabled the dissemination of research being carried out in the research group.

Discussion between research groups
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Oral Presentation, World Conference in Marine Biodiversity - China 2014 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Presentation promoted discussion and discussion on possible work in the future.

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Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://www.marine-biodiversity.org/wcmb2014/
 
Description Poster presentation at the University St Andrews post Graduate Conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact The conference provided the opportunity to disseminate the work being done in different research groups.

Discussions about the wider impacts of the study were had.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Royal Society of Edinburgh, Start up Science Masterclass 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact S1 and S2 pupils from a number of local schools are invited to take part in a number of activities regarding biodiversity and local coastal habitats. The aim is to spark an interest in local habitats and ecology.

Most participants learn new material and it promotes open discussion and development of ideas. It has gone on to encourage students to request work experience in the Sediment Ecology research Group.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012,2013,2014
URL http://www.royalsoced.org.uk/784_StartupScienceMasterclasses.html
 
Description School visit to a local High School 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact A chance to provide career pathway information to local high school students followed by a research based presentation.

The school have requested a school visit to the research laboratory.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Schools visit; Royal High school edinburgh 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Explain the broad reach of biological research and potential career using examples of exiting programmes CBESS, COHBED and BLUE-COAST, also presentation by current Ph.D student on blue carbon economy
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Science Discovery Day 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The activity got public engagement and encouraged the sharing of research with the local community.


The activity sparked interest and stimulated thoughts about the importance of coastal areas and sediment transport and the importance of the loss of local biodiversity.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014