Most estuaries experience significant sediment movement and morphological alterations over a broad array of time scales from short (i.e., within a tidal cycle) to long (decadal and geologic) time scales. Morphodynamics refers to the dynamics of morphological changes, i.e., sediment movement and associated bathymetric/topographic alterations. Our lab has been investigating the morphodynamics of small, low-inflow estuarine lagoons through a series of research projects since 2015. We have focused on the hydrodynamics that can drive morphodynamic change as well as the hydrodynamic changes that can occur as a result of morphodynamic alterations. This work has included understanding the physical response to extreme water levels (tides, waves), studying wave and sediment transport at and into the estuary mouth, the coupling between beaches and estuary mouths, estuarine circulation response to changing mouth morphology, and even biogeochemical responses to changing mouth morphology. We have focused on shorter time scales, tidal to seasonal, but always keeping in mind the implications for longer timescales and in particular how this work can help inform predictions of coastal response to climate change. Most of this work has been supported by grants from USC Sea Grant and the California Department of Parks and Recreation Natural Resources Division – Coastal Program. Additional projects have been built off of this data and added to these datasets with grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOOS) Coastal Hypoxia Research Program (CHRP). For additional details, please see project-specific information below.

Los Peñaquistos mouth morphology

These images are 1 day apart near low tide on 09 January 2015 17:00 and 10 January 2015 17:15 where the channel morphology shifted substantially. Thanks to the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve and the System-Wide Monitoring Program (SWMP), particularly Michelle Cordrey for data access and maintenance.

lagoon morphodynamic projects