Evidence for Late Holocene Relative Sea-Level Fall from Reconnaissance Stratigraphical Studies in an Area of Earthquake-Subsided Intertidal Deposits, Isla Chiloé, Southern Chile

  1. L. E. Frostick2 and
  2. R. J. Steel3
  1. S. Bartsch-Winkler and
  2. H. R. Schmoll

Published Online: 16 APR 2009

DOI: 10.1002/9781444304053.ch6

Tectonic Controls and Signatures in Sedimentary Successions

Tectonic Controls and Signatures in Sedimentary Successions

How to Cite

Bartsch-Winkler, S. and Schmoll, H. R. (1994) Evidence for Late Holocene Relative Sea-Level Fall from Reconnaissance Stratigraphical Studies in an Area of Earthquake-Subsided Intertidal Deposits, Isla Chiloé, Southern Chile, in Tectonic Controls and Signatures in Sedimentary Successions (eds L. E. Frostick and R. J. Steel), Blackwell Publishing Ltd., Oxford, UK. doi: 10.1002/9781444304053.ch6

Editor Information

  1. 2

    Reading, UK

  2. 3

    Bergen, Norway

Author Information

  1. US Geological Survey, Federal Center, Mail Stop 905, Denver, Colorado, USA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 16 APR 2009
  2. Published Print: 28 FEB 1994

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9780632037452

Online ISBN: 9781444304053

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Keywords:

  • Late Holocene sea-level fall from reconnaissance stratigraphical studies;
  • late Holocene tectonic land level change;
  • peat and silt stratigraphy;
  • tree ring tree diameter analysis;
  • relative sea-level fall, Isla Chiloe

Summary

At Río Pudeto and Quetalmahue, two estuaries along the northern shore of Isla Chiloé that subsided as much as 2 m in the great 1960 earthquake, reconnaissance stratigraphical studies reveal evidence of a regressive, nearshore marine sequence. The intertidal deposits include a peat-bearing, high-intertidal marsh sequence as thick as 1.4 m overlying shell- and foraminifera-bearing silt and clay layers presumed to represent a deeper water, low-intertidal environment.

Stratigraphy indicates a relative sea-level fall since about 5000 years BP as evidenced by radiocarbon ages that constrain the peat-bearing sequences. Locally, low-intertidal silt and clay overlie high-intertidal peat layers, but such minor transgressions cannot be correlated from site to site. At Río Pudeto, the youngest foraminifera-bearing silt deposit is no younger than 1200 years BP. The youngest age of shells at Quetalmahue is about 2600 years BP. The oldest peat-bearing deposits that are not overlain by silt deposits are about 1350 years BP at Río Pudeto, and as old as 4900 years BP at Quetalmahue. At Río Pudeto, peat-bearing deposits, which are overlain by silt and clay, range in age from 760 to 5430 years BP, and at Quetalmahue from 290 to 5290 years BP. A beach terrace on the northwest coast of the Isla is estimated to have been emergent since 1150 + 130 years ago.

Although some relatively abrupt transgressions may be due to sudden coseismic subsidence, data are not sufficient to document regional subsidence during individual plate-interface earthquakes. Seven earthquakes in south central Chile since 1520, especially those that occurred in 1575, 1737, and 1837, are thought to have been of a magnitude comparable to that of the 1960 earthquake. Although the sedimentological effects of the 1960 earthquake on the intertidal zone were dramatic, only limited evidence of possible historic earthquakes is found on Isla Chiloé and nearby islands; the ages and displacements of these earthquakes are indeterminable.

Dead forests still mark some locations that subsided into the intertidal zone during the 1960 earthquake, particularly at Río Pudeto and southern coastal Chiloé. There is little evidence of post-1960 growth in any of these subsided areas. Tree-ring counts and tree-diameter measurements provide evidence that these trees survived the 1837 earthquake, and probably survived the 1737 earthquake, strongly suggesting that these earthquakes were of smaller magnitude than the 1960 event, or that the epicentre locations were further removed than the 1960 epicentre from Isla Chiloé, and that earthquake-induced relative sea-level changes differed from those occurring in 1960.