Seasonal control on coastal dune morphostratigraphy under a monsoon climate, Mui Ne dunefield, SE Vietnam
© 2020 Elsevier B.V. Having developed in the later Quaternary Period, the Mui Ne dunefield, representing the upper-most portion of a major coastal barrier complex in SE Vietnam, formed by wind regimes associated with the Asian monsoon climate. The barrier complex is 100 km long and higher than 150 m in elevation but despite its large dimensions, research on its geomorphological and geological characterization is limited. Several active dune fields extend 2–10 km landwards from the coast while the rest of the barrier surface is stabilized. We applied ground-penetrating radar (GPR) and quartz optically-stimulated luminescence (OSL) dating to the transverse dunes of the Mui Ne dunefield to characterize the morphostratigraphy and recent aeolian sedimentation history. Currently the dunes have a relief of typically 5–10 m and a wavelength of 50–100 m. They are driven by the northeasterly winter monsoon winds and reversed with minor relief in response to the southwesterly summer monsoon. GPR profiles and OSL ages define three morphostratigraphic units: the modern, Holocene, and Pleistocene dune units. The GPR data of the modern dune unit is dominated by a series of steep reflections that dip exclusively towards the west reflecting the winter monsoon and is punctuated by reactivation surfaces. Evidence for the wind reversal is not preserved in the sediment successions but is represented by reactivation surfaces. Thus a subunit bounded by the reactivation surfaces defines annual deposition. The preservation potential of a subunit varies with the migration rate of the transverse dune, and in the fastest migrating dunes, approximately one subunit was preserved every year (1.1 ± 0.6 subunit/yr). The modern dunes are generally younger than 100 years and have migrated WSW at net rates of 0.6–2.5 m/yr. The Holocene dune unit is as thick as the modern unit although it spans a period, ten times longer, reflecting the lower preservation potential of the transverse dunes as sedimentary records, due to erosion associated with their migration. The rate of dune migration suggests that an aeolian contribution of coastal sands has occurred following the sea level highstand of the Middle Holocene, accounting for the extent of the active dunefields. This mode of the barrier accumulation is considered as an analogue for earlier highstand events. However, the dunefields only cover a fraction of the entire barrier. It is thus inferred that barrier formation occurred over a long period, probably encompassing several glacial-interglacial cycles. Sand accumulation during the lowstand, either by transport of sand from the subaerially exposed shelf and/or reworking of sand emplaced during the prior highstand, may contribute significantly to the barrier development.