Globally mud areas on continental shelves are conduits for the dispersal of fluvial-sourced sediment. We address fundamental issues in sediment dynamics focusing on how mud is retained on the seabed on shallow inner shelves and what are the sources of mud. Through a process-based comprehensive study that integrates dynamics, provenance, and sedimentology, here we show that the key mechanism to keep mud on the seabed is the water-column stratification that forms a dynamic barrier in the vertical that restricts the upward mixing of suspended sediment. We studied the 1000 km-long mud belt that extends from the mouth of the Changjiang (Yangtze) River along the coast of Zhejiang and Fujian Provinces of China and ends on the west coast of Taiwan. This mud belt system is dynamically attached to the fluvial sources, of which the Changjiang River is the primary source. Winter is the constructive phase when active deposition takes place of fine-grained sediment carried mainly by the Changjiang plume driven by Zhe-Min Coastal Currents southwestward along the coast.
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