Registro Histórico y Evolución de la Barra Arenosa de Puntarenas, Golfo de Nicoya, Costa Rica

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Puntarenas, coastal geology, geomorphology, sand bar, historical record


The Puntarenas sand spit appears in maps from the XVIII century. The 600 m-wide, 7 km-long spit trends E-W with an average elevation of 3 m above sea level. The spit forms part of the Gulf of Nicoya estuarine system. A geomorphologic analysis of historical maps and aerial photographs reveals systematic growth of the spit over the past 137 years. Puntarenas is part of an estuarine system growing southwards. The sand bar shows lateral growing, basically in La Punta. The spit growth ceased 50 years ago with the onset of coastal engineering. Based on previous photogeological and geophysical studies and new geophysical surveys we identify two paleochannels west of the current Barranca river channel. We infer a NW to SE migration of the Barranca channel, driven by neotectonic activity on the Barranca fault. The lateral growing rate of the Puntarenas spit for the period 1860-1945 (prior to human control) is 14 m per year; extrapolating this rate back in time yields an origin for the spit approximately 500 years ago.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

Revista Geológica de América Central, v. 31, p. 45-59