Anthropogenic disruption to the seismic driving of beach ridge formation: The Sendai coast, Japan

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Science of the Total Environment


© 2015 Elsevier B.V. The expected geomorphic after-effects of the Mw 9.0 Tōhoku-oki earthquake of 11 March 2011 (eastern Japan) are summarized by a schematic model of seismic driving, which details seismogenic disturbances to sediment systems that affect the rate or timing of sediment delivery to coastlines over timescales of 102-104years. The immediate physical environmental responses to this high-magnitude earthquake included a large tsunami and extensive region-wide slope failures. Normally, slope failures within mountain catchments would have significant impacts on Japan's river and coastal geomorphology in the coming decades with, for example, a new beach ridge expected to form within 20-100years on the Sendai Plain. However, human activity has significantly modified the rate and timing of geomorphic processes of the region, which will have impacts on likely geomorphic responses to seismic driving. For example, the rivers draining into Sendai Bay have been dammed, providing sediment traps that will efficiently capture bedload and much suspended sediment in transit through the river system. Instead of the expected ~1km of coastal progradation and formation of a ~3m high beach ridge prior to the next large tsunami, it is likely that progradation of the Sendai Plain will continue to slow or even cease as a result of damming of river systems and capture of river sediments behind dams. The resulting reduction of fluvial sediment delivery to the coast due to modification of rivers inadvertently makes seawalls and other engineered coastal structures even more necessary than they would be otherwise.

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