Quantifying rates of coastal progradation from sediment volume using GPR and OSL: the Holocene fill of Guichen Bay, south-east South Australia

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Abstract

Guichen Bay on the south-east coast of South Australia faces west towards the prevailing westerly winds of the Southern Ocean. The bay is backed by a 4 km wide Holocene beach-ridge plain with more than 100 beach ridges. The morphology of the Guichen Bay strandplain complex shows changes in the width, length, height and orientation of beach ridges. A combination of geomorphological interpretation, shallow geophysics and existing geochronology is used to interpret the Holocene fill of Guichen Bay. Six sets of beach ridges are identified from the interpretation of orthorectified aerial photographs. The ridge sets are distinguished on the basis of beach-ridge orientation and continuity. A 2·25 km ground-penetrating radar (GPR) profile across the beach ridges reveals the sedimentary structures and stratigraphic units. The beach ridges visible in the surface topography are a succession of stabilized foredunes that overlie progradational foreshore and upper shoreface sediments. The beach progrades show multiple truncation surfaces interpreted as storm events. The GPR profile shows that there are many more erosion surfaces in the subsurface than beach ridges on the surface. The width and dip of preserved beach progrades imaged by GPR shows that the shoreface has steepened from around 2·9° to around 7·5°. The changes in beach slope are attributed to increasing wave energy associated with beach progradation into deeper water as Guichen Bay was infilled. At the same time, the thickness of the preserved beach progrades increases slightly as the beach prograded into deeper water. Using the surface area of the ridge sets measured from the orthophotography, and the average thickness of upper shoreface, foreshore and coastal dune sands interpreted from the GPR profile, the volume of Holocene sediments within three of the six sets of beach-ridge accretion has been calculated. Combining optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) ages and volume calculations, rates of sediment accumulation for Ridge Sets 3, 4 and 5 have been estimated. Linear rates of beach-ridge progradation appear to decrease in the mid-Holocene. However, the rates of sediment accumulation calculated from beach volumes have remained remarkably consistent through the mid- to late Holocene. This suggests that sediment supply to the beach has been constant and that the decrease in the rate of progradation is due to increasing accommodation space as the beach progrades into deeper water. Changes in beach-ridge morphology and orientation reflect environmental factors such as changes in wave climate and wind regime.

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