Acoustic characteristics of bay bottom sediments in Lavaca Bay, TX
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The purpose of this study is to examine the sediment stratigraphy and oyster reefs of Lavaca Bay. There has been little previous research on the bay??s stratigraphy, and information from this study is important for industry and resources management. The Lavaca Bay estuary is a drowned river valley containing a history of estuary development in the late Pleistocene and Holocene. We used a chirp sonar to gather acoustic reflection profiles, which were classified to categorize and trace reflectors. The data were plotted to make maps of the distribution of various reflection types and contour maps of reflector surfaces. The maps were compared with previous studies of Lavaca Bay and Galveston Bay to aid interpretation. The vertical sediment stratigraphy showed two main reflector packages. The upper package, bay bottom to ~25 m depth, is mostly acoustically transparent with a few, semi-continuous, prominent reflectors in the upper 5-10 m. The lower package ranges from 15-40 m depth with several strong reflectors sometimes underlain by unconformities. To classify reflector characteristics, the upper package was divided into two categories, each with 4 sub-categories: 1) surface reflectors??weak, medium, strong, and ringing, which describe the general acoustic return of the bay bottom, and 2) strong, shallow reflectors??surface strong, mounds, buried strong, andburied multiples, which describe strong acoustic returns in the upper 5 m of stratigraphy. Within the lower package, four categories were recognized: 1) subbottom reflectors/horizons, occurring ~20-40 m depth, 2) deep wipeout (incoherent/wipeout zone), ~10-30 m depth, 3) clinoforms, ~5-30 m depth, and 4) terraces, ~10-30 m depth. The data interpretation agrees with previous studies suggesting Lavaca Bay filled beginning with coarse sediment and grading to finer sediment. In addition, the surface type reflectors are indicative of bottom type, the strong, shallow reflectors are largely indicative of oyster reef/shell, and the subbottom reflectors are related to the Pleistocene and bay fill. The location/extent of oyster reefs in the bay does not agree well with previous studies, suggesting either oysters do not grow over older ones or differences between the chirp sonar response and other methods significantly differentiate the interpretation of their locations/extents.
Patch, Mary Catherine (2005). Acoustic characteristics of bay bottom sediments in Lavaca Bay, TX. Master's thesis, Texas A&M University. Texas A&M University. Available electronically from