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Aggradation and lateral migration shaping geometry of a tidal point bar: An example from salt marshes of the Northern Venice Lagoon (Italy)

Brivio, Lara, Ghinassi, Massimiliano, D'Alpaos, Andrea, Finotello, Alvise, Fontana, Alessandro, Roner, Marcella, Howes, Nick
Sedimentary geology 2016 v.343 pp. 141-155
geometry, landscapes, littoral zone, models, particle size distribution, salt marshes, sand, shear stress, Italy
Although meanders are ubiquitous features of the tidal landscape, the architectural geometries of tidal point bar deposits are relatively unexplored and commonly investigated on the basis of facies models developed for their fluvial counterparts. The present study aims at improving current understanding of tidal point bar deposits developed in salt marsh settings, through a high-resolution investigation of an abandoned intertidal meander loop, located in the northern part of the Venice Lagoon (Italy). The study channel is 6m wide and was active until the 1950s, when it was deactivated as consequence of a neck cut-off. A total of 150 cores was recovered from the associated point bar. The bar erosionally overlies a subtidal platform consisting of sand and mud and is covered by both channel fill and salt marsh mud. The bar, floored by a shell-rich sandy lag, consists of stratified fine sand, grading upward into sandy mud. The outer bank of the bend is characterized by well-developed, sand-rich levee deposits and absence of crevasse splays, which represent a distinctive feature of alluvial sedimentation. Sediment grain size distributions suggesting that seaward and landward sides of the point bar experienced comparable changes of bed shear stress due to alternation between flood and ebb currents, highlighting a remarkable difference with the classical downstream-fining characterizing fluvial point bars. Spatial interpolation between key stratal surfaces shows an overall thickening of the bar from 1.2 to 1.7m in the direction of channel migration, associated with both lowering of the bar base and rising of its brink, which occurs in parallel with an increase in channel cross-sectional area, to progressively accommodate the increasing tidal prism. The bar top surface is characterized by a spoon-shaped geometry stemming out from a combination between lateral migration (8–10cm/yr) and vertical aggradation (2.5–3.0mm/yr) of the inner bank. In salt marsh settings, vertical aggradation plays, therefore, a major effect on point bar sedimentation, generating peculiar bar top geometries that are not common in fluvial meanders, where the high rate of lateral migration causes the cutoff to be reached before substantially thick deposits are accumulated on the bar top.