The Late Holocene sediment infilling and beach barrier dynamics of the Thau lagoon (Gulf of Lions, Mediterranean sea, SE France)

Abstract : A study combining very high resolution seismic and sediment core data has been carried out on the Thau lagoon (Mediterranean coast, microtidal setting, SE France) in order to understand more clearly the dynamics and Holocene chronology of its closure through the different stages of its filling. One main seismic unit (U2) has been defined into the infill, above the rocky basement (U0) and a composite unit U1, which is interpreted as remnants of Pleistocene fluvial terraces or/and to early marine Holocene deposits. Unit U2, that reaches locally 9 m in thickness, rests conformably on U1 in the central part of the lagoon and onlaps U0 or U1 close to the edge of the lagoon. It is divided in two sub-units, U2-1 and U2-2. U2-2 rests paraconformably on U2-1 in the central part of the lagoon where the infill is the thickest, while a marked erosional unconformity is observed between U2-1 and U2-2 on topographic highs of the basement and on the seaward edge of the lagoon. A total of seven elementary sequences have been observed in U2-1 and U2-2.;According to core data, U2 consists in a series of mud-dominated sequences, with shell fragments dispersed at the base. The vertical distribution of the fauna into U2-1 and U2-2 reveals a lagoonal environment. However in U2-1, marine species are more abundant in the south of the lagoon. C-14 AMS dating provides three ages: similar to 6000 cal yr B.P. in the lower part of U2-1 on CAL1, 5400 cal yr B.P. just above the boundary between U2-1 and U2-2 on CAL4, similar to 3000 cal yr B.P. in the middle of U2-2 on CAL4.;A scenario to explain the lagoon infill stratigraphy and geometry is proposed. The beginning of the lagoon infill occurred with the initiation of the barrier construction, as soon as the sea-level rise slowed down significantly, i.e. between 7000-6000 yr B.P. The sediment-fill began into the back-barrier system, with a high rate of sedimentation for U2-1, according to the radiocarbon data. At 5400 yr B.P., the barrier is assumed to be totally closed leading to the deposition of the fully lagoonal U2-2 succession. The unconformity between U2-1 and U2-2 is interpreted as the result of a rapid landward retreat of the barrier. This severe retreat could be related to climate forcing and/or brutal change in sediment discharge driven by the Rhone River, which is the main sediment source of the longshore drift. In this scenario, the last sub-unit, U2-2, represents most of the late Holocene infill. In this framework, the elementary sequences observed in U2-2 could be related to high frequency climate changes of about 1000-1500 years periodicity according to C-14 dates.
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Submitted on : Tuesday, May 25, 2010 - 4:05:09 PM
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P. Ferrer, M. Benabdellouahed, R. Certain, Bernadette Tessier, Jean-Paul Barusseau, et al.. The Late Holocene sediment infilling and beach barrier dynamics of the Thau lagoon (Gulf of Lions, Mediterranean sea, SE France). Bulletin de la Société Géologique de France, Société géologique de France, 2010, 181 (2), pp.197-209. ⟨10.2113/gssgfbull.181.2.197⟩. ⟨hal-00486386⟩

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