Abstract

Semiquantitative determinations of the clay-mineral composition have been made on nearly synoptic samples of surface suspended sediments collected seasonally throughout the San Francisco Bay system. The relative amounts of chlorite + kaolinite are generally highest in the northern reach of the system, whereas illite is dominant in the southern reach. The proportion of montmorillonite is low throughout the bay. Time-series and replicate samples collected at individual stations show that the difference in clay-mineral content between reaches is real and reflects a change in the source of clay-mineral particles within the bay. The Sacramento-San Joaquin river system supplies the northern reach, whereas most clay-mineral particles come from resuspension by waves and tidal currents in the southern reach. Analyses of bottom sediments and the spatial variability in the northern reach suggest that the relationship between the abundance and sources of clay minerals may, in turn, be a function of particle size. This study demonstrates the utility of suspended clay minerals in the interpretation of sediment-dispersal patterns in estuaries.

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