130 years of natural and anthropogenic modifications of the Venice lagoon unravel morpho-sedimentary evolution of tidal meanders

Alvise Finotello - University of Venice

Most tidal channels in both estuarine and lagoonal environments have a tendency to meander, yet very few studies have analyzed their morphometric characteristics and morphodynamic evolution. In spite of recent breakthroughs in numerical, experimental, and field techniques, an investigation on the full spectrum of the processes controlling tidal-meander evolution remains challenging. The Venice Lagoon (Italy) offers a unique opportunity to shed light on this topic, because a long record of morphological and sedimentary data is available, which allows one to relate tidal channel evolution to the hydrodynamic and morphological changes undergone by the lagoon. In particular, during the last 130 years, feedbacks between rising relative sea levels and anthropogenic interventions have caused severe modifications of the hydrodynamics and morphology of the Lagoon. Here we investigate how these modifications fed back into the morphodynamic evolution of a meandering tidal channel located in the northern Lagoon. Combining extensive datasets of aerial photographs, topographic and bathymetric survey, geophysical investigations, sedimentary core analysis, and numerical modeling, we illustrate how changes in local hydrodynamics determined the evolution of the study channel by inducing adjustments of both its cross-sectional areas and bed morphologies, thereby ultimately impacting meander planform dynamics. We also discuss how alterations in sediment transport regime affected tidal point-bar sedimentology, and suggest that wave-enhanced concentrations of suspended sediment during slack water conditions could have hampered the formation of high-relief bedforms.