Invasive Species Compendium

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Abstract

Influence of invasive submerged aquatic vegetation (E. densa) on currents and sediment transport in a freshwater tidal system.

Abstract

We present a field study combining measurements of vegetation density, vegetative drag, and reduction of suspended-sediment concentration (SSC) within patches of the invasive submerged aquatic plant Egeria densa. Our study was motivated by concern that sediment trapping by E. densa, which has proliferated in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, is impacting marsh accretion and reducing turbidity. In the freshwater tidal Delta, E. densa occupies shallow regions frequently along channel margins. We investigated two sites: Lindsey Slough, a muddy low-energy backwater, and the lower Mokelumne River, with stronger currents and sandy bed sediments. At the two sites, biomass density, frontal area, and areal density of the submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) were similar. Current attenuation within E. densa exceeded 90% and the vegetative drag coefficient followed Cd = 174 Red-1.46, where Red is stem Reynolds number. The SAV reduced SSC by an average of 18% in Lindsey Slough. At the Mokelumne River the reduction ranged 0%-40%, with greatest trapping when discharge and SSC were elevated. This depletion of SSC decreases the transport of sediment to marshes by the same percentage, as the rising tide must pass through fringing SAV before reaching marshes. Sediment trapping in E. densa in the Delta is limited by low flux through the canopy and low settling velocity of suspended sediment (mostly flocculated mud). Sediment trapping by SAV has the potential to reduce channel SSC, but the magnitude and sign of the effect can vary with local factors including vegetative coverage and the depositional or erosional nature of the setting.