Postglacial sediment deposition along a mixed carbonate-siliciclastic margin: New constraints from the drowned shelf-edge reefs of the Great Barrier Reef, Australia
February 06, 2016

Authors: Hinestrosa, G., Webster, J.M., Beaman, R.J.

Year: 2016

Publication: Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 446, 168-185. doi: 10.1016/j.palaeo.2016.01.023


A seismic stratigraphy analysis was conducted at two sites, Hydrographers and Noggin passages, separated by about 540 km on the shelf-edge of the central Great Barrier Reef (GBR), Australia.

We used recently available seismic and bathymetry data and a new synthesis of downhole logs and lithological, petrophysical and radiometric data from cores recovered by the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program Expedition 325 (Great Barrier Reef Environmental Changes).

We compared the stratigraphy of both sites, identifying a full depositional sequence with deposits from at least 28 ka BP to ~ 7 ka BP, bounded by two marine flooding surfaces. Within this sequence, each systems tract is represented by unique depositional features characteristic of the shelf-edge systems. Despite the broad environmental and geomorphic similarities between the two sites, differences in postglacial reef development were remarkable.

These contrasts can be explained as a result of: (1) local antecedent substrate variations and (2) the interplay of shelf physiography with Late Quaternary sea level fluctuations, which favoured changes in biological production and sediment flux as the palaeo-shoreline evolved from linear to complex during intermediate sea levels.

During these intermediate sea levels, the northern estuarine coast and its steep substrate at shelf-edge locations contrasted strongly with the protected palaeo-lagoons and the extensive, gentle marginal terraces found at the southern central GBR. This setting enhanced the regional differences in sediment transport and reef development through the last transgression.

The conceptual model presented here provides a broader depositional framework and improves the understanding of the main processes controlling the spatial and temporal depositional patterns on the shelf-edge of mixed siliciclastic-carbonate margins.

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