Role of karst denudation on the accurate assessment of glacio-eustasy and tectonic uplift on carbonate coasts


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Publication Date

November 2017


Quaternary glacio-eustasy has traditionally been determined in part by the examination of fossil coral reefs on carbonate islands and coasts uplifted by tectonics. These studies do not properly account for dissolutional denudation, which is cumulative, making higher and therefore older terraces exist at elevations far below their assumed depositional elevation. Karst pedestals (karrentische) on Guam reveal the extent of the denudation (c. 50 mm ka−1) and demonstrate that theoretical denudation models can be accurately applied to eogenetic carbonates in tropical settings. Aeolian calcarenite islands such as the Bahamas have been used as tectonically stable sea-level calibrations for other islands, which may not be correct. Flank margin caves, forming in the distal margin of the freshwater lens within a carbonate island, are excellent sea-level indicators. Analysis of flank margin cave elevations indicates that the Bahamas have had past sea-level highstands >6 m, perhaps up to 15 m or more, for which no fossil coral data exist. Denudational removal of these older corals has biased the record to younger events and only flank margin caves remain as viable terrestrial signatures of these older sea-level highstands.


Karst Denudation, Glacio-Eustasy, Tectonic Uplift, Carbonate Coasts, Flank Margin Cave




Geological Society, London, Special Publications, Vol. 466 (2017-11-06).