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Coastal plain stratigraphy records tectonic, environmental, and human habitability changes related to sea-level drawdown, ‘Upolu, Sāmoa

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  27 February 2017

Haunani H. Kane
Affiliation:
Department of Geology and Geophysics, School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, 1680 East-West Rd., POST Room 721, Honolulu, Hawaiʻi 96822, USA
Charles H. Fletcher
Affiliation:
Department of Geology and Geophysics, School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, 1680 East-West Rd., POST Room 721, Honolulu, Hawaiʻi 96822, USA
Ethan E. Cochrane
Affiliation:
Department of Anthropology, The University of Auckland, 10 Symonds St., Human Sciences Building 201E, Auckland 1010, New Zealand
Jerry X. Mitrovica
Affiliation:
Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Harvard University, 20 Oxford St., Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138, USA
Shellie Habel
Affiliation:
Department of Geology and Geophysics, School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, 1680 East-West Rd., POST Room 721, Honolulu, Hawaiʻi 96822, USA
Matthew Barbee
Affiliation:
Department of Geology and Geophysics, School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, 1680 East-West Rd., POST Room 721, Honolulu, Hawaiʻi 96822, USA
Corresponding
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Abstract

Coastal plain stratigraphy is often over looked in paleo–sea-level reconstructions because carbonate sediments do not precisely constrain former sea level. Pacific Island sedimentology provides an invaluable record of geomorphic and environmental consequences of coastal evolution in response to changes in sea level and local tectonics. A series of coastal auger cores obtained from eastern ʻUpolu reveal a subsurface carbonate sand envelope predominately composed of coral and coralline algae derived from the reef framework. Coupling the sedimentological record with geophysical models of Holocene sea level, we identify a critical value (0.3–1.0 m) during the falling phase of the sea-level high stand (1899–2103 cal yr BP) that represents the transition from a transgressive to a regressive environment and initiates coastal progradation. Correlating the critical value with time, we observe nearly a millennium of coastal plain development is required before a small human population is established. Our findings support previous studies arguing that Sāmoa was colonized by small and isolated groups, as post–mid-Holocene drawdown in regional sea level produced coastal settings that were morphologically attractive for human settlement. As future sea level approaches mid-Holocene high stand values, lessons learned from Pacific Island sedimentological records may be useful in guiding future decisions related to coastal processes and habitat suitability.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © University of Washington. Published by Cambridge University Press, 2017 

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Coastal plain stratigraphy records tectonic, environmental, and human habitability changes related to sea-level drawdown, ‘Upolu, Sāmoa
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