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Determining the impact of the Holocene highstand at the coastal-fluvial interface, Shoalhaven River, south-eastern Australia


Correspondence to: Stephanie J. Kermode, GeoQuEST Research Centre – School of Earth & Environmental Science, University of Wollongong, Northfields Avenue, Wollongong, NSW, 2522, Australia. E-mail:


With enhanced rates of sea-level rise predicted for the next century, the upstream extent of sea-level influence across coastal plains is a topic of public importance. Australian coastal rivers provide a testing ground for exploring this issue because the area is tectonically stable, was not glaciated, and experienced a Holocene highstand between 7.4 and 2 ka of up to 1.5 m above Australian Height Datum (AHD). In the Shoalhaven River of New South Wales, investigation of a confined bedrock reach at Wogamia, 32 km inland, has identified a unit of dark, cohesive silt and sand with marine diatoms, shell fragments, and enhanced pyrite content, interpreted as estuarine. The unit is up to 13 m thick, thickens downstream, and is overlain by fluvial channel and floodplain deposits. The estuarine unit on-laps a remnant Pleistocene terrace and extends to approximately +2.2 m AHD. Optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) and radiocarbon ages suggest that estuarine deposition commenced prior to 7.8 ka cal bp, predating the highstand by ~ 500 years, and that marine influence in the area continued to 5.3 ± 0.7 ka. During this period, a delta probably persisted at Wogamia, where a narrow upstream reach opens out, and subsequently advanced to fill the broad Shoalhaven coastal embayment. Although the effect of sea-level rise depends on many factors, the results suggest that, during a highstand at or above present sea level, a strong marine influence may extend for tens of kilometres inland and penetrate confined bedrock reaches landward of coastal embayments. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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