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ABSTRACT

The Mono estuary is an infilled, microtidal estuary located on the wave-dominated Bight of Benin coast which is subject to very strong eastward longshore drift. The estuarine fill comprises a thick unit of lagoonal mud deposited in a ‘central basin’between upland fluvial deposits and estuary-mouth wave-tide deposits. This lagoonal fill is capped by organic-rich tidal flat mud. In addition to tidal flat mud, the superficial facies overlying the ‘central basin’fill include remnants of spits resting on transgressive/washover sand, an estuary-mouth association of beach, shoreface, flood-tidal delta and tidal inlet deposits, and a thin sheet of fluvial sediments deposited over tidal flat mud.

After an initial phase of spit intrusion over the infilled central basin east of the present Mono channel, the whole estuary mouth became bounded by a regressive barrier formed from sand supplied by the Volta Delta during the middle Holocene eustatic highstand. Barrier progradation ceased late in the Holocene following the establishment of an equilibrium plan-form shoreline alignment that allowed through-drift of Volta sand to sediment sinks further downdrift. Over the same period, accretion, from fluvially supplied sediments, of the estuarine plain close to the limit of spring high tides, or, over much of the lower valley, into a fluvial plain no longer subject to tidal flooding, induced marked meandering of the Mono and its tidal distributaries in response to confinement of much of the tidal prism to these channels. The process resulted in erosion of spit/washover and regressive barrier sand, and in reworking of the tidal flat and floodbasin deposits. The strong longshore drift, equilibrium shoreline alignment and the year-round persistence of a tidal inlet maintained by discharge from the Mono and from Lake Ahémé have resulted in a stationary barrier that is reworked by a mobile inlet.

The Mono example shows that advanced estuarine infill may result in considerable facies reworking, obliteration of certain facies and marked spatial imbrication of fluvial, estuarine and wave-tide-deposited facies, and confirms patterns of sedimentary change described for microtidal estuaries on wave-influenced coasts. In addition, this study shows that local environmental factors such as sediment supply relative to limited accommodation space, and strong longshore drift, which may preclude accumulation of sediments in the vicinity of the estuary mouth, may lead to infilled equilibrium or near-equilibrium estuaries that will not necessarily evolve into deltas.