A 100 ka record of fluvial activity in the Fitzroy River Basin, tropical northeastern Australia
This study reports the nature and timing of Quaternary fluvial activity in the Fitzroy River basin, which drains a diverse 143,000 km2 area in northeastern Queensland, before discharging into the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. The catchment consists of an extensive array of channel and floodplain types that we show have undergone large-scale fluvial adjustment in-channel planform, geometry and sinuosity. Optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) dating of quartz sediments from fifteen (3–18 m) floodplain cores throughout the basin indicates several discrete phases of active bedload activity: at ∼105–85 ka in Marine Isotope Stage (MIS) 5, at ∼50–40 ka (MIS 3), and at ∼30–10 ka (MIS 3/2). The overall timing of late Quaternary fluvial activity correlates well with previous accounts from across Australia with rivers being primarily active during interstadials. Fluvial activity, however, does not appear to have been synchronous throughout the basin’s major sub-catchments. Fluvial activity throughout MIS 2 (i.e. across the Last Glacial Maximum) in the meandering channels of the Fitzroy correlates well with regional data in tropical northeastern Queensland, and casts new light on the river response to reduced rainfall and vegetation cover suggested by regional palaeoclimate indicators. Moreover, the absence of a strong Holocene signal is at odds with previous accounts from elsewhere throughout Australia. The latitudinal position of the Fitzroy across the Tropic of Capricorn places this catchment at a key location for elucidating the main hydrological drivers of Quaternary fluvial activity in northeastern Australia, and especially for determining tropical moisture sources feeding into the headwaters of Cooper Creek, a major river system of the continental interior.