High-resolution reconstruction of a coastal barrier system: impact of Holocene sea-level change

Mikkel Fruergaard, Thorbjørn J. Andersen, Lars H. Nielsen, Peter N. Johannessen, Troels Aagaard, Morten Pejrup

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

    39 Citations (Scopus)


    This study presents a detailed reconstruction of the sedimentary effects of Holocene sea-level rise on a modern coastal barrier system. Increasing concern over the evolution of coastal barrier systems due to future accelerated rates of sea-level rise calls for a better understanding of coastal barrier response to sea-level changes. The complex evolution and sequence stratigraphic framework of the investigated coastal barrier system is reconstructed using facies analysis, high-resolution optically stimulated luminescence and radiocarbon dating. During the formation of the coastal barrier system starting 8 to 7 ka rapid relative sea-level rise outpaced sediment accumulation. Not before rates of relative sea-level rise had decreased to ca 2 mm yr -1 did sediment accumulation outpace sea-level rise. From ca 5·5 ka, rates of regionally averaged sediment accumulation increased to 4·3 mm yr -1 and the back-barrier basin was filled in. This increase in sediment accumulation resulted from retreat of the barrier island and probably also due to formation of a tidal inlet close to the study area. Continued transgression and shoreface retreat created a distinct hiatus and wave ravinement surface in the seaward part of the coastal barrier system before the barrier shoreline stabilized between 5·0 ka and 4·5 ka. Back-barrier shoreline erosion due to sediment starvation in the back-barrier basin was pronounced from 4·5 to 2·5 ka but, in the last 2·5 kyr, barrier sedimentation has kept up with and outpaced sea-level. In the last 0·4 kyr the coastal barrier system has been prograding episodically. Sediment accumulation shows considerable variation, with periods of rapid sediment deposition and periods of non-deposition or erosion resulting in a highly punctuated sediment record. The study demonstrates how core-based facies interpretations supported by a high-resolution chronology and a well-documented sea-level history allow identification of depositional environments, erosion surfaces and hiatuses within a very homogeneous stratigraphy, and allow a detailed temporal reconstruction of a coastal barrier system in relation to sea-level rise and sediment supply.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)928-969
    Number of pages42
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2015


    • Denmark
    • High-resolution chronology
    • Holocene coastal barrier system
    • OSL dating
    • Sea-level changes
    • Sequence stratigraphy
    • The Wadden Sea

    Programme Area

    • Programme Area 3: Energy Resources


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