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Pulfrich, A. and Branch, G.M. 2013. Using diamond-mined sediment discharges to test the paradigms of sandy-beach ecology. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, Available online 15 August 2013. In Press, Corrected Proof


Description:

Using diamond-mined sediment discharges to test the paradigms of sandy-beach ecology.

Summary / Notes:

The prevailing view of sandy-shore ecosystems is that they are controlled largely by physical conditions, particularly particle size, slope and wave regime, but it is rarely possible to test this view by experimentally manipulating these attributes. We report a unique opportunity to accomplish this because large-scale alteration of these properties has taken place on the Namibian coast, associated with diamond mining. Elizabeth Bay diamond mine, near Lüderitz, started modern operations in 1991. Since then, 30.8 million tonnes of sediment with a particle size (<1.4 mm) coarser than the native beach sand have been discharged as slurry onto the beach as part of the treatment process. The physical and biological effects of this were monitored on seven occasions between 1993 and 2012, spanning three phases: (1) an initial pre-upgrade phase (1994–2004) with discharges of moderate intensity; (2) doubling of discharges during upgrade of the mine (2005–2008); (3) temporary cessation of mining (2009–2011). These vicissitudes resulted in both spatial and temporal physical changes, including massive beach accretion (350–620 m), overall increases in mean sand particle size and slope and decreases in Dean's Parameter, east-to-west gradients in beach slope, wave height and erosion, and changes in the beach state from dissipative towards reflective conditions. Alteration of physical conditions led to significant macrofaunal changes, with the community structure in the centre of the bay opposite the discharge points shifting from a state dominated by sand mussels to one dominated by peracarid crustaceans, accompanied by reductions in diversity, biomass and abundance. Grossebucht, which lies nearby and is not mined, provided comparative reference samples: physical conditions there changed little, and biotic communities were constant, significantly more diverse and had greater abundances and biomasses than at Elizabeth Bay. The changes in physical conditions and ensuing biological responses confirmed the prevailing paradigm that sandy beaches are physically driven, with diversity, abundance and biomass all declining at places and times where sediment particle size and beach slope increased due to sediment inputs. Keywords: diamond mining, sediment disposal, shoreline accretion, macrofaunal communities, grain size, sandy beach.

Year: 2013

Type: Journal Article

URL: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0272771413003430


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