Quaternary calcarenite stratigraphy on Lord Howe Island, southwestern Pacific Ocean and the record of coastal carbonate deposition
Lord Howe Island is a small, mid-ocean volcanic and carbonate island in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. Skeletal carbonate eolianite and beach calcarenite on the island are divisible into two formations based on lithostratigraphy. The Searles Point Formation comprises eolianite units bounded by clay-rich paleosols. Pore-filling sparite and microsparite are the dominant cements in these eolianite units, and recrystallised grains are common. Outcrops exhibit karst features such as dolines, caves and subaerially exposed relict speleothems. The Neds Beach Formation overlies the Searles Point Formation and consists of dune and beach units bounded by weakly developed fossil soil horizons. These younger deposits are characterised by grain-contact and meniscus cements, with patchy pore-filling micrite and mirosparite. The calcarenite comprises several disparate successions that contain a record of up to 7 discrete phases of deposition. A chronology is constructed based on U/Th ages of speleothems and corals, TL ages of dune and paleosols, AMS 14C and amino acid racemization (AAR) dating of land snails and AAR whole-rock dating of eolianite. These data indicate dune units and paleosols of the Searles Point Formation were emplaced during oxygen isotope stage (OIS) 7 and earlier in the Middle Pleistocene. Beach units of the Neds Beach Formation were deposited during OIS 5e while dune units were deposited during two major phases, the first coeval with or shortly after the beach units, the second later during OIS 5 (e.g. OIS 5a) when the older dune and beach units were buried. Large-scale exposures and morphostratigraphical features indicate much of the carbonate was emplaced as transverse and climbing dunes, with the sediment source located seaward of and several metres below the present shoreline. The lateral extent and thickness of the eolianite deposits contrast markedly with the relatively small modern dunes. These features indicate that a slight fall (2-10 m) in sea level may be required to mobilise relatively large volumes of sediment onto the island. The stratigraphy of the calcarenite, combined with the shallow depth of the platform surrounding the island (30-50m present water depth) and the geochronological data, suggest that cycles of carbonate deposition on the island are linked to interglacial and interstadial periods of high or falling sea level.