Sediment Distribution on a Storm-Dominated Insular Shelf, Luquillo, Puerto Rico, U.S.A.


  • William C. Schwab
  • Rafael W. Rodriguez
  • William W. Danforth
  • Marguerite H. Gowen


Sea-floor mapping, sediment transport, coastal erosion, sidescan sonar, Puerto Rico, Luquillo


A sea-floor mapping investigation designed to assess the sediment distribution, the movement of the nearshore sand supply, and the fate of sediment eroded from the shoreline was conducted using high resolution sidescan-sonar, seismic reflection, and sediment sampling techniques on the northern insular shelf of Puerto Rico, off the town of Luquillo. Sea-floor structures and the distribution of sediment texture and composition suggest that regional oceanographic processes result in a net offshore direction for cross shelf sediment transport on the middle and outer shelf during storms. If these same processes are active on the inner shelf, mapping results indicate that this sediment is not transported seaward of a series of east-west trending Pleistocene-age eolianite ridges that outcrop on the middle shelf. The eolianite ridges may act as natural dams, preventing the removal of sediment from the nearshore area. Sand deposits behind the "dams" are up to 20 m thick on the shoreward flank of the ridges.