Sediment characterisation and tracing from catchment to reef


The Catchment to Reef Research Group uses the physical, elemental and isotopic makeup of soils/suspended sediments in the Burdekin, Tully and Johnstone River catchments to obtain a distinct “fingerprint” of the fine sediments (mud fraction) entering the marine environment. Sampling of the suspended sediments offshore in flood plumes and strategically-deployed sediment traps allow the sediment processes to be better understood and to trace the sediment back to a catchment source to refine management prioritisation. The key aims are to identify specific sources of the fine sediments which are transported large distances in the GBR lagoon. This project is supported through the National Environmental Science Program (NESP).

The Group are also interested in methodological development of suspended sediment characterisation and tracing techniques including innovations on collection of suspended sediment, particle size methods, clay mineralogy and sediment recovery. This project is linked to the NESP project and supported through an Advance Queensland Fellowship.
Previously we have examined the sources, transport, loads and fate of sediment in catchments of the Great Barrier Reef including constructing catchment budgets using monitoring, modelling and tracing data and using marine sediment cores to examine changes in deposition rates and sources over time.

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Further Reading

Bainbridge, Z. Lewis, S. Smithers, S. Wilkinson, S. Douglas, G. Hillier, S. Brodie, J. 2016. Clay mineral source tracing and characterisation of Burdekin River (NE Australia) and flood plume fine sediment. Journal of Soils and Sediments 16, 687-706.

Bainbridge, Z.T. Lewis, S.E. Smithers, S.G. Kuhnert, P.M. Henderson, B.L. Brodie, J.E. 2014. Fine-suspended sediment and water budgets for a large, seasonally dry tropical catchment: Burdekin River catchment, Queensland, Australia. Water Resources Research 50, 9067–9087.

Bainbridge, Z.T. Wolanski, E. Álvarez-Romero, J.G. Lewis, S.E. Brodie, J.E. 2012. Fine sediment and nutrient dynamics related to particle size and floc formation in a Burdekin River flood plume, Australia. Marine Pollution Bulletin 65, 236-248.

Bartley, R. Bainbridge, Z.T. Lewis, S.E. Kroon, F.J. Brodie, J.E. Wilkinson, S.N. Silburn, M.D. 2014. Relating sediment impacts on coral reefs to watershed sources, processes and management: A review. Science of the Total Environment 468-469, 1138-1153.

Delandmeter, P. Lewis, S. Lambrechts, J. Deleernsijder, E. Legat, V. Wolanski, E. 2015. 3D modelling of the transport and fate of riverine fine sediment exported to a semi-enclosed system. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 167, 336-346.

Fabricius, K.E. Logan, M. Weeks, S.J. Lewis, S.E. Brodie, J. 2016. Changes in water clarity in response to river discharges on the Great Barrier Reef continental shelf: 2002-2013. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 173, A1-A15.

Furuichi, T. Olley, J. Wilkinson, S. Lewis, S. Bainbridge, Z. Burton, J. 2016. Paired geochemical tracing and load monitoring analysis for identifying sediment sources in a large catchment draining into the Great Barrier Reef Lagoon. Geomorphology 266, 41-52.

Gladish, D.W. Kuhnert, P.M. Pagendam, D.E. Wikle, C.K. Bartley, R. Searle, R.D. Ellis, R.J. Dougall, C. Turner, R. Lewis, S.E. Bainbridge, Z.T. Brodie, J.E. 2016. Spatio-temporal assimilation of modelled catchment loads with monitoring data in the Great Barrier Reef. Annals of Applied Statistics 10, 1590-1618.

Kuhnert, P.M. Pagendam, D.E. Bartley, R. Gladish, D.W. Lewis, S.E. Bainbridge, Z.T. in press. Making management decisions in the face of uncertainty: a case study using the Burdekin catchment in the Great Barrier Reef. Marine and Freshwater Research.

Kuhnert, P.M. Henderson, B.L. Lewis, S.E. Bainbridge, Z.T. Wilkinson, S.N. Brodie, J.E. 2012. Quantifying total suspended sediment export from the Burdekin River catchment using the loads regression estimator tool. Water Resources Research 48, W04533.

Lewis, S.E. Olley, J. Furuichi, T. Sharma, A. Burton, J. 2014. Complex sediment deposition history on a wide continental shelf: implications for the calculation of accumulation rates on the Great Barrier Reef. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 393, 146-158.


Zoe Bainbridge profile 2Dr Zoe Bainbridge

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Dr Stephen Lewis

Phone: +61 7 4781 6629

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