This study addresses the mid- to late Holocene stratigraphy and sea level history of a macrotidal barrier and paleoestuary system located along the relatively unstudied northwest coast of Australia. Thirty-nine shallow cores were obtained from three transects perpendicular to the barrier and paleoestuary axis. Seven sedimentary facies were identified on the basis of sediment texture, carbonate content, and foraminifera assemblages: slope, upper intertidal mud, upper intertidal sand flat, lower intertidal sand flat, barrier, estuarine beach, and flood tide delta. The sedimentary infill reveals a fining upward succession of marine sediments up to 6 m thick, mostly along a regressive sequence. All facies are of Holocene age and started to be laid down when sea level was approximately 3 m below present elevation. A radiocarbon date from the topmost sedimentary facies (upper intertidal mud) indicates that relative sea level was at least 1 m higher than today by 2720 years BP. At this time, the estuary was at the final stages of sedimentary infill, with tidal inundation reduced to a minimum. Further evidence of a higher relative sea level during the Holocene is in the form of estuarine beach deposits found at the back of the paleoestuary at an elevation above the present day beach/dune interface. Net nearshore transport in the area, driven by tidal current asymmetry, is northward, and it is proposed that this has significantly influenced the alongshore component of the barrier progradation and evolution of the barrier estuary.
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Vol. 2006 • No. 221