Evidence for a transgressive barrier within a regressive strandplain system: Implications for a complex coastal response to environmental change

Christopher J. Hein, Duncan M. FitzGerald, William J. Cleary, M. Boechat Albernaz, João Thadeu de Menezes, Antonio H. da F. Klein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Clastic, depositional strandplain systems have the potential to record changes in the primary drivers of coastal evolution: climate, sea-level, and the frequency of major meteorological and oceanographic events. This study seeks to use one such record from a southern Brazilian strandplain to highlight the potentially-complex nature of coastal sedimentological response to small changes in these drivers. Following a 2 to 4 m highstand at ca 5·8 ka in southern Brazil, falling sea-level reworked shelf sediment onshore, forcing coastal progradation, smoothing the irregular coastline and forming the 5 km wide Pinheira Strandplain, composed of ca 500 successive beach and dune ridges. Sediment cores, grab samples and >11 km of ground-penetrating radar profiles reveal that the strandplain sequence is composed of well-sorted, fine to very-fine quartz sand. Since the mid-Holocene highstand, the shoreline prograded at a rate of ca 1 to 2 m yr−1 through the deposition of a 4 to 6 m thick shoreface unit; a 1 to 3 m thick foreshore unit containing ubiquitous ridge and runnel facies; and an uppermost beach and foredune unit. However, the discovery of a linear, 100 m wide barrier ridge with associated washover units, a 3 to 4 m deep lagoon and 250 m wide tidal inlet within the strandplain sequence reveals a period of shoreline transgression at 3·3 to 2·8 ka during the otherwise regressive developmental history of the plain. The protected nature of Pinheira largely buffered it from changes in precipitation patterns, wave energy and fluvial sediment supply during the time of its formation. However, multiple lines of evidence indicate that a change in the rate of relative sea-level fall, probably due to either steric or ice-volume effects, may have affected this coastline. Thus, whereas these other potential drivers cannot be fully discounted, this study provides insights into the complexity of decadal-scale to millennial-scale coastal response to likely variability in sea-level change rates.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)469-502
Number of pages34
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • Barrier island
  • Brazil
  • progradation
  • regression
  • sea-level change
  • strandplain
  • transgression


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