The utility of single foraminifera amino acid racemization analysis for the relative dating of Quaternary beach barriers and identification of reworked sediment
© 2020 Elsevier B.V. The identification and correlation of a sequence of Pleistocene beach barriers located within the northern Coorong Coastal Plain, South Australia, is made difficult by long-term subsidence and extensive reworking. Associated shell beds, to all but the last interglacial barrier, are subsurface and not readily accessible. The whole-rock amino acid racemization method was found to be unsuitable for distinguishing age differences of the individual barriers due to the low calcium carbonate content of the sediments, concerns for the leaching or contamination as a result of the comminuted nature of the shelly component, and the potentially high content of reworked sediment. These difficulties prompted an investigation into the applicability of AAR analysis of single foraminifera tests to ascertain whether the relative age of beach barriers could be determined and whether sediment contribution from antecedent barriers could be identified. Foraminifera tests of multiple genera (including Cibicides corticatus and Rosalina bradyi) from numerous modern depositional environments were analyzed to establish aminozones of aspartic acid and glutamic acid D/L values representative of modern/Holocene foraminifera and to assess natural variability of Holocene D/L values between depositional settings. Tests of Lamellodiscorbis dimidiatus, common in the Pleistocene barriers, were analyzed from MIS 5 and MIS 7 sediments and aminozones identified, allowing correlation of non-contiguous barrier features and the identification of reworked foraminifera. Rejection criteria removed, on average, between 25 and 30% of analytical results. The Holocene aminozone for every genus analyzed falls within the same general constraint: D/L values less than 0.40 for aspartic acid and less than 0.20 for glutamic acid. The D/L values of approximately 15% of foraminifera from the modern sediments exceed the Holocene aminozone constraint and the tests are considered reworked. The range of D/L values representative of each interglacial aminozone decreases with age, reflecting the slowing rate of amino acid racemization with time. Pleistocene sediments are found to have a higher percentage of reworked tests. Thermoluminescence dating of the Pleistocene successions was used to evaluate the AAR results. This work illustrates that foraminifera tests are surprisingly robust and can survive potentially multiple phases of deposition and reworking.