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A geomorphic and tectonic model for the formation of the flight of Holocene marine terraces at Mahia Peninsula, New Zealand

Berryman, Kelvin, Clark, Kate, Cochran, Ursula, Beu, Alan, Irwin, Sarah
Geomorphology 2017
Holocene epoch, age structure, coastal plains, cutting, earthquakes, flight, littoral zone, marine sediments, models, molluscs, sand, sea level, storms, stratigraphy, tectonics, tephra, terraces, topsoil, tsunamis, New Zealand
At Table Cape, Mahia Peninsula, North Island, New Zealand, four marine terraces have been uplifted coseismically during the past 3500years. Detailed facies assessment of the terrace coverbed sequence coupled with identification of modern analogues on the active shore platform were used to infer the process of marine terrace formation and to estimate the timing and amount of past uplift events (earthquakes). The modern platform can be subdivided into seven depositional zones: subtidal, outer platform, intertidal sand pockets, inner platform, high-tide, mid-storm, and storm beach. Terrace coverbeds were characterised from two trenches excavated across the full width of the uplifted terrace sequence. Off-lapping packages of high tidal, mid-storm, and storm beach sediments were most common. Outer platform sediments occurred only rarely near the base of some uplifted shore platforms. Overlying the marine sediments were near-horizontal terrestrial deposits of airfall tephra (on the two highest terraces), subsoil, topsoil, rare wedges of colluvial sediment (slopewash) shed from terrace risers, and an anomalous deposit possibly emplaced by a tsunami. Fifty-one radiocarbon ages, obtained from molluscs in the marine coverbeds, showed a general pattern of seaward-younging across the coastal plain and across each terrace and a less pronounced pattern of decreasing age upward in each coverbed sequence. The distinctive stepped geomorphology of the terraces, the facies and age structure of the terrace deposits and historical earthquake causation of similar terraces elsewhere in New Zealand provided the data to invoke an earthquake-driven model for terrace formation. Marine terrace development following an uplift event involved rapid cutting of a new intertidal shore platform and generally regressive deposition of high-tide to storm beach deposits. Following further uplift, the platform became a geomorphic terrace (above marine influence) and was then mantled by terrestrial sediments. On the two highest terraces at Table Cape, airfall tephras mantling the marine coverbeds provided a minimum age for terrace uplift. The youngest radiocarbon ages from high-tide deposits high in the stratigraphy and near the seaward edge of each terrace provided the best estimates for the timing of uplift. Based on the new radiocarbon ages and the constraining airfall tephra ages, we revised the earthquake ages to 3530–3350, 1810–1730, 1560–1300 and 300–100cal. YBP. Associated best estimates of the coseismic uplift amounts were 2.1, 1.4, 1.8, and 3.1m respectively, once we accounted for eustatic sea level changes through the late Holocene.