Hydraulic characteristics of bioclastic deposits: new possibilities for environmental interpretation using settling velocity fractions

Authors

  • PAUL S. KENCH,

    1. Department of Geography and Oceanography, Australian Defence Force Academy, ACT 2600, Australia
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      Department of Geography and Environmental Studies, The University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria 3052, Australia.

  • ROGER F. McLEAN

    1. Department of Geography and Oceanography, Australian Defence Force Academy, ACT 2600, Australia
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ABSTRACT

This paper examines the hydraulic behaviour of heterogeneous bioclastic sediments using settling velocity fractions. Bioclastic deposits are divided into fractions by splitting hydraulically sorted samples. Compositional analysis of fractions shows that grains exhibit marked variation in composition, shape, size and density which control the hydraulic behaviour of bioclastic deposits. Despite the heterogeneous grain properties of fractions (analogous to sieve fractions) sedimentation analysis shows that they possess a narrow range of settling velocity values. Flume experiments also show that the settling velocity fractions possess a narrow range of threshold velocity values. A threshold relationship is identified in which the velocity required to entrain mixed settling fractions increases from 20.5 to 65-0cm s −1 for settling fractions with mean settling values of 5.5 chi (2-2 cm s −1) to 1.4 chi (36.0 cm s −1), respectively. Heterogeneous settling fractions, due to intergrain effects, were found to possess larger threshold velocities than individual components showing that the composition of bioclastic deposits controls hydraulic behaviour. Thus, caution must be exercised in using the threshold relationship for homogeneous sediments or deposits of markedly different composition.

As settling velocity fractions reflect narrow hydraulic (settling and threshold) properties of sediments the mean settling velocity of fractions is considered a good indicator with which to interpret transport and depositional processes.

Comparison of settling and sieve-size distributions shows that size distributions do not reflect the hydraulic behaviour of bioclastic deposits and should not be used to interpret environmental processes. The study indicates that examination of settling velocity fractions (for which hydraulic settling and threshold properties are known) coupled with compositional analysis of these fractions will allow much greater environmental interpretation of deposit-forming and energy processes in reef environments.

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