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Anatomy and origin of authochthonous late Pleistocene forced regression deposits, east Coromandel inner shelf, New Zealand: implications for the development and definition of the regressive systems tract

High-resolution seismic reflection data from the east Coromandel coast, New Zealand, provide details of the sequence stratigraphy beneath an autochthonous, wave dominated inner shelf margin during the late Quaternary (0-140 ka). Since c. 1 Ma, the shelf has experienced limited subsidence and fluvial sediment input, producing a depositional regime characterised by extensive reworking of coastal and shelf sediments during glacio-eustatic sea-level fluctuations. It appears that only one complete fifth-order (c. 100 000 yr) depositional sequence is preserved beneath the inner shelf, the late Pleistocene Waihi Sequence, suggesting any earlier Quaternary sequences were mainly cannibalised into successively younger sequences. The predominantly Holocene-age Whangamata Sequence is also evident in seismic data and modern coastal deposits, and represents an incomplete depositional sequence in its early stages of formation. A prominent aspect of the sequence stratigraphy off parts of the east Coromandel coast is the presence of forced regressive deposits (FRDs) within the regressive systems tract (RST) of the late Pleistocene Waihi Sequence. The FRDs are interpreted to represent regressive barrier-shoreface sands that were sourced from erosion and onshore reworking of underlying Pleistocene sediments during the period of slow falling sea level from isotope stages 5 to 2 (c. 112-18 ka). The RST is volumetrically the most significant depositional component of the Waihi Sequence; the regressive deposits form a 15-20 m thick, sharp-based, tabular seismic unit that downsteps and progrades continuously across the inner shelf. The sequence boundary for the Waihi Sequence is placed at the most prominent, regionally correlative, and chronostratigraphically significant surface, namely an erosional unconformity characterised in many areas by large incised valleys that was generated above the RST. This unconformity is interpreted as a surface of maximum subaerial erosion generated during the last glacial lowstand (c. 18 ka). Although the base of the RST is associated with a prominent regressive surface of erosion, this is not used as the sequence boundary as it is highly diachronous and difficult to identify and correlate where FRDs are not developed. The previous highstand deposits are limited to subaerial barrier deposits preserved behind several modern Holocene barriers along the coast, while the transgressive systems tract is preserved locally as incised-valley fill deposits beneath the regressive surface of erosion at the base of the RST. Many documented late Pleistocene RSTs have been actively sourced from fluvial systems feeding the shelf and building basinward-thickening, often stacked wedges of FRDs, for which the name allochthonous FRDs is suggested. The Waihi Sequence RST is unusual in that it appears to have been sourced predominantly from reworking of underlying shelf sediments, and thus represents an autochthonous FRD. Autochthonous FRDs are also present on the Forster-Tuncurry shelf in southeast Australia, and may be a common feature in other shelf settings with low subsidence and low sediment supply rates, provided shelf gradients are not too steep, and an underlying source of unconsolidated shelf sediments is available to source FRDs. The preservation potential of such autochthonous FRDs in ancient deposits is probably low given that they are likely to be cannibalised during subsequent sea-level falls.
Journal Article
Type of thesis
Bradshaw, B. E., & Nelson, C. S. (2004). Anatomy and origin of authochthonous late Pleistocene forced regression deposits, east Coromandel inner shelf, New Zealand: implications for the development and definition of the regressive systems tract. New Zealand Journal of Geology and Geophysics, 47, 81-99.
The Royal Society of New Zealand
This article has been published in the New Zealand Journal of Geology and Geophysics. © The Royal Society of New Zealand 2004.