Complex sediment deposition history on a wide continental shelf: implications for the calculation of accumulation rates on the Great Barrier Reef

Lewis, Stephen E., Olley, Jon, Furuichi, Takahisa, Sharma, Ashneel, and Burton, Joanne (2014) Complex sediment deposition history on a wide continental shelf: implications for the calculation of accumulation rates on the Great Barrier Reef. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 393 (1). pp. 146-158.

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Abstract

Understanding the key processes controlling the delivery, deposition and fate of sediments on continental shelves is critical to appreciate the evolution of coasts and estuaries and to interpret geological sequences. This study presents radiocarbon and Optically Stimulated Luminescence (OSL) ages of sediment cores collected from key locations offshore from the Burdekin River, Australia, the largest single source of sediment delivered to the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) lagoon. The ages show variable sediment accumulation rates at the different locations that coincide with the Holocene avulsion history of the Burdekin River. Our data show that most fine sediment (<63 μm) delivered from the Burdekin River is retained within 50 km of the mouth, a finding that contrasts previous studies which postulated that fine sediments are advected northwards via longshore drift processes. The pairing of radiocarbon and OSL ages provides insights on resuspension regimes operating on the inner shelf of the GBR. It was thought that turbidity on inshore GBR coral reefs and seagrass meadows has increased as a result of increased erosion in the adjacent catchment from agricultural development. Our data show that the age of the sediments in Cleveland Bay (derived from the radiocarbon ages from shell and organic material) can be several thousand years older than when the sediment was last deposited (OSL ages). However, the increased turbidity could conceivably be caused from 'new biologically-produced sediment' (i.e. particulate organic matter) as a result of increased nutrient export to the GBR. We suggest that the composition of sediment in resuspension events before and after the wet season be analysed to examine whether newly delivered organic-rich sediment can affect coral reefs and seagrass meadows.

Item ID: 35428
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1385-013X
Keywords: Burdekin River, optically stimulated luminescence, sediment resuspension, Great Barrier Reef, turbidity
Date Deposited: 30 Oct 2014 03:41
FoR Codes: 05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050205 Environmental Management @ 100%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9609 Land and Water Management > 960902 Coastal and Estuarine Land Management @ 100%
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