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Keywords:

  • Cliff-top dune;
  • Denmark;
  • geochemistry;
  • particle size;
  • Rubjerg Knude;
  • sediment provenance

Abstract

Particle size and geochemical data have been used to investigate the development of a large cliff-top dune at Rubjerg Knude, located on the western coast of Jutland, Denmark. Textural parameters and geochemical ratios provided useful indicators of the dune sediment provenance and mode of evolution of the dune. The dune sediments themselves showed no significant spatial particle size trends and reflect a number of processes, including grainfall, wind-ripple migration and avalanching (grainflow), which formed a high proportion of the deposits on both the stoss and lee sides of the present dune. Fine grainfall sediments, which have accumulated to form a sandplain in the lee of the dune, show fining and improved sorting with distance, and extend more than 2 km downwind of the dune crest. Comparison of the textural and geochemical data from Rubjerg Knude and other locations on the Jutland coast indicates that, although there is a contribution of sand to the dune from local marine sources, the main source of sand to the cliff-top dune and sand plain sediments has been provided by the wind erosion of the underlying cliffs, which are composed of Weichselian age sandy glaciofluvial and glaciolacustrine deposits. Optically stimulated luminescence dating indicated an apparent age for the sand at the base of 274 ± 14 years. If this date is reliable, it suggests that accumulation of the aeolian sand in this area began within approximately the last 300 years. Map and photographic evidence indicate that the modern high dune only began to form after 1885, apparently associated with an acceleration in the rate of coastal cliff retreat.