We present a revised relative mean sea-level (MSL) curve for the Rhine-Meuse delta, western Netherlands, for the period 7900-5300 cal yr BP. The revision is based on a series of new and previously unpublished local groundwater-level index data from buried Late Glacial aeolian dunes in the lower Rhine-Meuse delta, and reinterpretation of existing data.
The new index data consist of (AMS and conventional) radiocarbon dates of samples, collected from the base of peat formed on dune slopes, near Vlaardingen (21 index points), Hillegersberg (one index point), and Hardinxveld-Giessendam (10 index points). The Vlaardingen data represent the coast-nearest Rhine-Meuse delta local water-level record, which therefore is highly indicative for sea-level change. Pollen and macrofossil analysis, and dating of paired samples was carried out to assess the reliability of the groundwater-level index data.
The revision of the MSL curve involves: (1) a significant (0 to >1 m) upward adjustment for the period 7900-7300 cal yr BP; (2) a downward adjustment of <0.25 m for the period 6650-5300 cal yr BP. The new data indirectly support the reliability of the part of the curve for the period 7300-6650 cal yr BP. A longitudinally fairly uniform river gradient of 2.5-3.0 cm/km in the lower Rhine-Meuse delta during the period 6650-5600 cal yr BP can be inferred from the data sets. A significant river gradient extended further towards the coastline than previously thought and it may be that also the revised MSL curve reflects river-gradient effects. An increased floodbasin effect (stronger intra-coastal tidal damping) seems to have developed in the lower Rhine-Meuse delta in de period 7500-6600 cal yr BP, and was probably a complex response to a major avulsion of the Rhine.