A sediment trap experiment in the Vema Channel to evaluate the effect of horizontal particle fluxes on measured vertical fluxes Academic Article uri icon


  • Sediment traps are used to measure fluxes and collect samples for studies in biology, chemistry and geology, yet we have much to learn about factors that influence particle collection rates. Toward this end, we deployed cylindrical sediment traps on five current meter moorings across the Vema Channel to field-test the effect of different horizontal particle fluxes on the collection rate of the traps - instruments intended for the collection of vertically settling particles. The asymmetric flow of Antarctic Bottom Water through the Vema Channel created an excellent natural flume environment in which there were vertical and lateral gradients in the distribution of both horizontal velocity and particle concentration and, therefore, the resulting horizontal flux. Horizontal effects were examined by comparing quantities of collected material (apparent vertical fluxes) with the horizontal fluxes of particles past each trap. We also looked for evidence of hydrodynamic biases by comparing and contrasting the composition of trap material based on particle size and the concentration of Al, Si, Ca, Mg, Mn, Corg and CaCO3. Experimental inverted traps and traps with only side openings were deployed to test a hypothesis of how particles are collected in traps. The vertical flux of surface-water particles should have been relatively uniform over the 45 km region of the mooring locations, so if horizontal transport contributed significantly to collection rates in traps, the calculated trap fluxes should be correlated positively with the horizontal flux. If the horizontal flow caused undertrapping, there should be a negative correlation with velocity or Reynolds number. The gross horizontal flux past different traps varied by a factor of 37, yet the quantity collected by the traps differed by only a factor of 1.4. The calculated horizontal fluxes were 2-4 orders of magnitude larger than the measured apparent vertical fluxes. Mean velocities past the traps ranged from 1-22 cm s-1 (Reynolds numbers of 3,500-43,000 for these traps with a diameter of 30.5 cm and an aspect ratio of 3) and showed no statistically significant relationship to the apparent vertical flux. We conclude that at current speeds measured in a very large portion of the world's oceans, vertical fluxes measured with moored, cylindrical traps should exhibit little effect from horizontal currents.

published proceedings


author list (cited authors)

  • Gardner, W. D., Biscaye, P. E., & Richardson, M. J.

citation count

  • 64

complete list of authors

  • Gardner, WD||Biscaye, PE||Richardson, MJ

publication date

  • January 1997