Chronology of Quaternary coastal aeolianite deposition and the drowned shorelines of southwestern Western Australia - a reappraisal
Aeolianite successions of low-gradient continental margins commonly show complex records of coastal dune deposition linked to a wide range of sea-level positions and climatic periods of the middle and late Pleistocene, recording both regional and broader-scale drivers of sediment production, coastal dune development and landform preservation. To better characterise the general pattern of sedimentation that occurs over Quaternary glacial–interglacial cycles on low-gradient, temperate carbonate continental shelves we examine the morphology, stratigraphy and age of aeolianite deposits in the Perth region, Western Australia. This includes an analysis of well-defined drowned coastal landforms preserved on the adjacent shelf. New and previously published optical ages provide a preliminary timeframe for the deposition of aeolianite in the Perth region and on Rottnest Island, 17 km offshore. An extensive aeolianite ridge near Perth, representing a former barrier, has Optically Stimulated Luminesence (OSL) ages that range from 120 ± 12 to 103 ± 10 ka (MIS 5e–5a in the context of associated age uncertainties). OSL ages for an exposure in the same ridge 2.5 km inland, record the onlap of much older aeolianite, OSL age 415 ± 70 ka, by shell-rich estuarine beds, OSL age 290 ± 30 ka. A further 5.5 km inland from the coast, two thick aeolianite units, separated by a well-developed palaeosol, have stratigraphically consistent OSL ages of 310 ± 30 and 155 ± 20 ka. In contrast, aeolianite units that form the northern coast of Rottnest Island have OSL ages of 77 ± 12 ka and 27 ± 5 ka. The new OSL ages and previously reported TL and U/Th ages indicate that the bulk of the island comprises dunes deposited around the end of the Last Interglacial sensu lato (MIS 5a–4) and during the Last Glacial (MIS 4–2), accumulating over a Last Interglacial coral reef and basal calcarenite. Drowned barrier and dune landforms preserved on the adjacent continental shelf reveal that barriers were formed during periods of intermediate sea level (e.g. MIS 3) and significant dune mobility occurred when the shelf was subaerially exposed. The pattern of shelf sedimentation discernible in the Perth region – large-scale coastal carbonate dune deposition during periods of high and intermediate sea level and reactivation during glacial lowstands – is largely consistent with published stratigraphic and age data for large-scale aeolianite deposits on other low-gradient carbonate shelves. Based on these data, a general model is proposed for the cycle of Quaternary sedimentation and landform evolution that occurs on these shelves, which are dynamic sedimentary environments with coastal landforms and sedimentary successions that are very sensitive to erosion and sediment reworking.