Coastal Restoration Trust of New Zealand

Coastal Dune Ecosystem Reference Database

Storm response of a mixed sand gravel beach ridge plain under falling relative sea levels: A stratigraphic investigation using ground penetrating radar Journal Paper

Sebastian J. Pitman, Harry M. Jol, James Shulmeister, Deirdre E. Hart
Publisher / Organisation
University of Canterbury
Pegasus Bay, regressive barrier, wave-built facies, post storm recovery, beach
Beach ridge stratigraphy can provide an important record of both sustained coastal progradation and responses to events such as extreme storms, as well as evidence of earthquake induced sediment pulses. This study is a stratigraphic investigation of the late Holocene mixed sand gravel (MSG) beach ridge plain on the Canterbury coast, New Zealand. The subsurface was imaged along a 370 m shore-normal transect using 100 and 200 MHz ground penetrating radar (GPR) antennae, and cored to sample sediment textures. Results show that, seaward of a back-barrier lagoon, the Pegasus Bay beach ridge plain prograded almost uniformly, under conditions of relatively stable sea level. Nearshore sediment supply appears to have created a sustained sediment surplus, perhaps as a result of post-seismic sediment pulses, resulting in a flat, morphologically featureless beach ridge plain. Evidence of a high magnitude storm provides an exception, with an estimated event return period in excess of 100 years. Evidence from the GPR sequence combined with modern process observations from MSG beaches indicates that a paleo storm initially created a washover fan into the back-barrier lagoon, with a large amount of sediment simultaneously moved off the beach face into the nearshore. This erosion event resulted in a topographic depression still evident today. In the subsequent recovery period, sediment was reworked by swash onto the beach as a sequence of berm deposit laminations, creating an elevated beach ridge that also has a modern-day topographic signature. As sediment supply returned to normal, and under conditions of falling sea level, a beach ridge progradation sequence accumulated seaward of the storm feature out to the modern-day beach as a large flat, uniform progradation plain. This study highlights the importance of extreme storm events and earthquake pulses on MSG coastlines in triggering high volume beach ridge formation during the subsequent recovery period.