Beachrock: a tool for reconstructing relative sea level in the far-field.

Barbara Mauz, Matteo Vacchi, Andrew Green, Goesta Hoffman, Andrew Cooper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

134 Citations (Scopus)
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Today's understanding of sea-level change developed through a combination of process-based physical modelling and observational data. Observational data of sea-level change derives from coral reefs in the far-field of the former ice sheets where a geographically variable relative sea-level signal is expected as a response of the earth to ocean loading. Given this variability and the limited geographical distribution of coral reefs, there is a need to explore other, non-coral based sea-level markers to further understand sea-level change and, for example, to ‘fingerprint’ melt-water. Here, we present beachrock as a coastal deposit suitable for relative sea-level (RSL) observations in the far-field. Beachrock is an intertidal deposit forming in the zone where carbonate saturated meteoric and marine water mix and pCO2 decreases. We provide the conceptual framework for beachrock analysis and describe techniques suitable for analysing and dating the deposit. The approach is standardised by outlining the sediment characteristics in terms of RSL indicative meaning and indicative range, and is tested against published data. A study conducted on coasts of the Mediterranean Sea exemplifies the utility of beachrock for RSL reconstruction. It is shown that the precision of the reconstruction is derived from the combined uncertainty of age and tidal amplitude or tidal range. The uncertainty can be reduced to half the tidal amplitude when a deposit can be ascribed to the upper (or lower) intertidal zone. Beachrock-based data benefit from the lack of non-quantifiable error terms such as post-depositional compaction due to the instantaneous formation and high preservation potential of the deposit. This underlines the high precision of beachrock-based RSL reconstruction, which is a prime requirement for testing and extending coral-based records.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
JournalMarine Geology
Early online date27 Jan 2015
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 1 Apr 2015


  • Sea-level reconstruction
  • Non-coral sea-level marker
  • Indicative meaning
  • Intertidal cement


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