Morphological evolution of an ephemeral tidal inlet from opening to closure: The Albufeira inlet, Portugal

Fortunato AB, Nahon A, Dodet G, Pires AR, Freitas MC, Bruneau N, Azevedo A, Bertin X, Benevides P, Andrade C, Oliveira A
Continental Shelf Research 73 (2014) 49–63,

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Like other similar coastal systems, the Albufeira lagoon is artificially opened every year to promote water renewal and closes naturally within a few months. The evolution of the Albufeira Lagoon Inlet from its opening in April 2010 to its closure 8 months later is qualitatively and quantitatively analyzed through a combination of monthly field surveys and the application of a process-based morphodynamic model. Field data alone would not cover the whole space–time domain of the morphology of the inlet during its life time, whereas the morphodynamic model alone cannot reliably simulate the morphological development. Using a nudging technique introduced herein, this problem is overcome and a reliable and complete data set is generated for describing the morphological development of the tidal inlet. The new technique is shown to be a good alternative to extensive model calibration, as it can drastically improve the model performance. Results reveal that the lagoon imported sediments during its life span. However, the whole system (lagoon plus littoral barrier) actually lost sediments to the sea. This behavior is partly attributed to the modulation of tidal asymmetry by the spring–neap cycle, which reduces flood dominance on spring tides. Results also allowed the assessment of the relationship between the spring tidal prism and the cross-section of tidal inlets (the PA relationship). While this relationship is well established from empirical, theoretical and numerical evidences, its validity in inlets that are small or away from equilibrium was unclear. Results for the Albufeira lagoon reveal an excellent match between the new data and the empirical PA relationship derived for larger inlets and equilibrium conditions, supporting the validity of the relationship beyond its original scope.