Late Quaternary Development of Coastal Parabolic Megadune Complexes in Northeastern Australia

  1. K. Pye2 and
  2. N. Lancaster3
  1. K. Pye

Published Online: 8 APR 2009

DOI: 10.1002/9781444303971.ch3

Aeolian Sediments: Ancient and Modern

Aeolian Sediments: Ancient and Modern

How to Cite

Pye, K. (1993) Late Quaternary Development of Coastal Parabolic Megadune Complexes in Northeastern Australia, in Aeolian Sediments: Ancient and Modern (eds K. Pye and N. Lancaster), Blackwell Publishing Ltd., Oxford, UK. doi: 10.1002/9781444303971.ch3

Editor Information

  1. 2

    Reading, UK

  2. 3

    Reno, Nevada, USA

Author Information

  1. Postgraduate Research Institute for Sedimentology, University of Reading, Whiteknights, Reading RG6 2AB, UK

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 8 APR 2009
  2. Published Print: 27 MAY 1993

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9780632035441

Online ISBN: 9781444303971



  • late quaternary development of coastal parabolic megadune complexes in northeastern Australia;
  • transgressive dune building activity and early Holocene marine transgression;
  • coastal sediment accumulation during quaternary and tectonic factors;
  • dunefield morphology;
  • parabolic dune morphology;
  • parabolic dune morphology variation;
  • stratigraphy and age structure of dunefields;
  • simple, complex, and compound dunes;
  • Shelburne Bay dunefield;
  • dune size and morphology and underlying topography


Large coastal dunefields on the coast of northeastern Australia display stratigraphic and morphological evidence of a long period of sand accumulation during the Quaternary. Many of the older dune units are highly weathered and deeply podzolized, although the pattern of post-depositional alteration varies significantly in response to hydrological factors. Drilling has shown that in some areas aeolian sands extend to a depth of more than 40 m below present sea level, while elsewhere dunes have climbed over bedrock hills and older dunes to attain a height of more than 300 m above sea level. Insufficient evidence is presently available to be certain about the number, timing, extent and causes of aeolian episodes in different areas. However, the limited radiocarbon, thermoluminescence (TL) and uranium-series age data available suggest that some aeolian activity occurred during both high and lower stands of sea level. There is good evidence that significant transgressive dune building activity was associated with the early Holocene marine transgression, when coastal sediments were partially reworked landwards. After sea level attained approximately its present position around 6000 BP, shoreline erosion ceased and was replaced by progradation in many areas, leading to a reduction in sand supply from the beach and widespread dune stabilization. In northern Queensland stabilization may also have been encouraged by wetter conditions in the mid-Holocene. In some areas inland dunes have been reactivated and others initiated during the later Holocene following natural and anthropogenic disturbance to the vegetation.