Cookies

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Otherwise, we'll assume you're OK to continue.

Durham University

Department of Geography

Departmental Research Projects

Publication details

Long, A.J., Waller, M.P. & Stupples, P. Driving mechanisms of coastal change: Peat compaction and the destruction of late Holocene coastal wetlands. Marine Geology. 2006;225:63-84.

Author(s) from Durham

Abstract

This paper examines the role of peat compaction as a driving
mechanism behind the widespread inundation of a late Holocene coastal
wetland in southeast England, UK. Detailed stratigraphic and dating
evidence (lithology, grain size, foraminifera, pollen and radiocarbon
dates) from a sample site in Romney Marsh documents the gradual inundation
of a coastal wetland after 1263âââ1085 cal. yr BP (c. 700âââ850 AD)
and the establishment of a saltmarsh. Shortly thereafter there was a rapid
increase in water depth that was associated with the deposition of nearly
4 m of laminated intertidal mudflat and tidal channel sediments, prior to
site reclamation from the sea by AD 1460. Grain-size data and statistical
analysis of sand and mud laminae thicknesses suggest the laminated
sediments accumulated rapidly (c. 0.2 m per year) as heterolithic tidal
rhythmites. Rapid compaction of the thick peat bed that underlies the
study site provided the accommodation space for their deposition. This
process began with the gradual tidal inundation of the site, but
accelerated following the widening of a breach in a coastal barrier in the
13th century. Compaction lowered the peat surface by at least 3 m and was
associated with widespread landscape change. The study demonstrates the
powerful influence that compaction had on the evolution of the late
Holocene landscape at this site and, we believe, at many other coastal
lowlands in northwest Europe. This process is likely to have been a key
driving mechanism behind rapid late Holocene coastal change, far exceeding
the longer-term effects of either eustatic change or crustal
uplift/subsidence.

References

Allen, J.R.L., 1999. Geological impacts on coastal wetland
landscapes:
some general effects of sediment autocompaction in the
Holocene of northwest Europe. Holocene 9, 1 – 12.
Allen, J.R.L., 2000. Morphodynamics of Holocene salt marshes: a
review sketch from the Atlantic and Southern North Sea coasts of
Europe. Quat. Sci. Rev. 19, 1155– 1231.
Allen, J.R.L., 2004. Annual textual banding in Holocene estuarine
silts, Severn Estuary Levels (SW Britain): patterns, cause and
implications. Holocene 4, 536– 552.
Archer, A.W., 1991. Modelling of tidal rhythmites using modern tidal
periodicities and implications for short-term sedimentation rates.
In: Franseen, E.K., Watney, W.L., Kendall, C.G.St.C., Ross, W.
(Eds.), Sedimentary Modelling, Computer Simulations and Methods
for Improved Parameter Definition. Kansas Geol. Surv. Bull.,
vol. 233. Lawrence, Kansas, USA, pp. 185– 194.
Archer, A.W., 1994. Extraction of sedimentological information via
computer-based image analysis of gray shales in Carboniferous
coal-bearing sections of Indiana and Kansas. Math. Geol. 26,
47– 65.
Archer, A.W., 1998. Hierarchy of controls on cyclic rhythmite deposition,
Carboniferous basins of eastern and mid-continental U.S.A.
In: Alexander, C.R., Davis, R.A., Henry, V.J. (Eds.), Tidalites:
Processes and Products. SEPM Spec. Publ., vol. 61, pp. 59– 68.
Archer, A.W., Johnson, T.W., 1997. Modelling of cyclic tidal rhythmites
(Carboniferous of Indiana and Kansas, Precambrian of
Utah, USA) as a basis for reconstruction of intertidal positioning
and palaeotidal regimes. Sedimentology 44, 991–1010.
Archer, A.W., Kuecher, G.J., Kvale, E.P., 1995. The role of tidalvelocity
asymmetries in the deposition of silty tidal rhythmites
(Carboniferous, eastern interior coal basin, USA). J. Sediment.
Res., A 65, 408– 416.
Baeteman, C., in press. How subsoil morphology and erodibility
influence the origin and pattern of late Holocene tidal channels:
case studies from the Belgian coastal lowlands. Quat. Sci. Rev.
Baeteman, C., Denys, L., 1995. Western coastal plain of Belgium. In:
Schirmer, W. (Ed.), Quaternary Field Trips in Central Europe, vol.
2. Verlag Dr. Friedrich Pfeil, North Sea Coasts, Munich,
pp. 1010–1014.
Baeteman, C., Scott, D.B., van Strydonck, M., 2002. Changes in
coastal zone processes at a high sea-level stand: a late Holocene
example from Belgium. J. Quat. Sci. 17, 547–559.
Beets, D.J., van der Valk, L., Stive, M.J.F., 1992. Holocene evolution
of the coast of Holland. Mar. Geol. 103, 423– 443.
Beets, D.J., van der Spek, A.J.F., van der Valk, L., 1994. Holocene
ontwikkkeling van de Nederlandse kust. Rijks Geol. Dienst
40.0016, 53.
Behre, K.-E., Menke, B., Strief, H., 1979. The Quaternary geological
development of the German part of the North Sea. In: Oele, E.,
Schu¨ttenham, R.T.E., Wiggers, A.J. (Eds.), The Quaternary History
of the North Sea, Acta. Univ. Ups. Symp. Univ. Ups. Annum
Quingentesimum Celebrantis, vol. 2. Uppsala University,
Uppsala, pp. 85– 113.
Bell, M., Caseldine, A., Neumann, H. (Eds.), 1999. Prehistoric Intertidal
Archaeology in the Welsh Severn Estuary, Council for
British Archaeology Report, vol. 120, p. 440.
Bennema, J., Geue, E.C.W.A., Smits, H., Wiggers, A.J., 1954. Soil
compaction in relation to quaternary movements of sea-level and
subsidence of the land, especially in the Netherlands. Geol. Mijnb.
16, 173–178.
Dalrymple, R.W., Makino, Y., Zaitlin, B.A., 1991. Temporal and
spatial patterns of rhythmite deposition on mudflats in the macrotidal,
Cobequid Bay—Salmon River estuary, Bay of Fundy. In:
Smith, D.G., Reinson, G.E., Zaitlin, B.A., Rahamis, R.A. (Eds.),
Clastic Tidal Sedimentology, Mem.-Can. Soc. Pet. Geol., vol. 16,
pp. 137–160.
Dark, P., Allen, J.R.L., 2005. Seasonal deposition of Holocene banded
sediments in the Severn Estuary Levels (southwest Britain): palynological
and sedimentological evidence. Quat. Sci. Rev. 24,
11– 33.
Denys, L., Baeteman, C., 1995. Holocene evolution of relative sealevel
and local mean high water spring tides in Belgium—a first
assessment. Mar. Geol. 124, 1– 19.
Devoy, R.J.N., 1979. Flandrian sea level changes and vegetation
history of the lower Thames Estuary. Philos. Trans. R. Soc.
Lond., B 25, 355– 407.
Eddison, J., 1998. Catastrophic changes: the evolution of the barrier
beaches of Rye Bay. In: Eddison, J., Gardiner, M., Long, A.J.
(Eds.), Romney Marsh: Environmental Change and Human Occupation
in a Coastal Lowland, vol. 46. Oxford University Committee
for Archaeology, Oxford, pp. 65–88.
Eddison, J., Draper, G., 1997. A landscape of medieval reclamation:
Walland Marsh, Kent. Landsc. Hist. 19, 75– 88.
Gardiner, M., 1995. Medieval farming and flooding in the Brede
valley. In: Eddison, J. (Ed.), Romney Marsh: The Debatable
Ground, vol. 41. Oxford University Committee for Archaeology,
Oxford, pp. 127– 137.
Gardiner, M., 2002. The late Medieval bAntediluvianQ landscape of
Walland Marsh. In: Long, A.J., Hipkin, S., Clarke, H. (Eds.),
Romney Marsh: Coastal and Landscape Change Through the
Ages, vol. 56. Oxford University Committee for Archaeology,
Oxford, pp. 101– 120.
Gehrels, W.R., Belknap, D.F., Kelley, J.T., 1996. Integrated
highprecision
analyses of Holocene relative sea-level changes: lessons
from the coast of Maine. Geol. Soc. Amer. Bull. 108, 1073– 1088.
Green, R.D., 1968. Soils of Romney Marsh. Bulletin-Soil Survey of
Great Britain, vol. 4. Soil Survey of Great Britain, Harpenden.
Grimm, E.C., 1987. CONISS: A FORTRAN 77 program for stratigraphically
constrained cluster analysis by the method of incremental
sum of squares. Comput. Geosci. 13, 13–35.
Grimm, E.C., 1993. TILIA: A Program For Analysis and Display.
Illinois State Museum, Springfield.
Haslett, S.K., Davies, P., Curr, R.H.F., Davies, C.F.C., Kennington,
K., King, C.P., Margets, A.J., 1998. Evaluating late-Holocene
relative sea-level changes in the Somerset Levels, southwest
Britain. Holocene 8, 197– 207.
Hobbs, N., 1986. Mire morphology and the properties and behaviour
of some British and foreign peats. Q. J. Eng. Geol. 19, 7– 80.
Kvale, E.P., Archer, A.W., 1991. Characteristics of two, Pennsylvanian
age, semidiurnal tidal deposits in the Illinois Basin, USA. In:
Smith, D.G., Reinson, G.E., Zaitlin, B.A., Rahmani, R.A. (Eds.),
Clastic Tidal Sedimentology, Mem.-Can. Soc. Pet. Geol., vol. 16,
pp. 179–188.
Kvale, E.P., Masterlerz, M., 1998. Evidence of ancient fresh-water
tidal deposits. In: Alexander, C.R., Davis, R.A., Henry, V.J.
(Eds.), Tidalites, Processes and Products. SEPM Spec. Publ.,
vol. 61, pp. 95– 107.
Kvale, E.P., Fraser, G.S., Archer, A.W., Zawistoski, A., Kemp, N.,
McGough, P., 1994. Evidence of seasonal precipitation in Pennsylvanian
sediments of the Illinois Basin. Geology 22, 331– 334.
Kvale, E.P., Johnson, H.W., Sonett, C.P., Archer, A.W., Zawistoski,
A., 1999. Calculating lunar retreat rates using tidal rhythmites. J.
Sediment. Res. 69, 1154– 1168.
Loeblich Jr., A.R., Tappan, H., 1988. Foraminiferal Genera and
Their Classification, vol. 1. Van Nostrand Reinhold, New
York. 970 pp.
Long, A.J., Hughes, P., 1995. Evolution of the Dungeness foreland
during the last 4000 years. Mar. Geol. 124, 253– 271.
Long, A.J., Innes, J.B., 1993. Holocene sea-level changes and coastal
sedimentation in Romney marsh, southeast England, UK. Proc.
Geol. Assoc. 104, 223– 237.
Long, A.J., Innes, J.B., 1995. The back-barrier and barrier depositional
history of Romney Marsh, Kent, UK. J. Quat. Sci. 10, 267– 283.
Long, A.J., Plater, A.J., Waller, M.P., Innes, J.B., 1996. Holocene
coastal sedimentation in the Eastern English Channel: new data
from the Romney Marsh region, United Kingdom. Mar. Geol.
136, 97–120.
Long, A.J., Waller, M.P., Hughes, P., Spencer, C., 1998a. The
holocene depositional history of Romney Marsh proper. In:
Eddison, J., Gardiner, M., Long, A.J. (Eds.), Romney Marsh:
Environmental Change and Human Occupation in a Coastal
Lowland, vol. 46. Oxford University Committee for Archaeology,
Oxford, pp. 45–63.
Long, D., Waller, M.P., McCarthy, P., 1998b. The vegetation history,
stratigraphy and pollen data for the Shirley Moor region. In:
Eddison, J., Gardiner, M., Long, A.J. (Eds.), Romney Marsh:
Environmental Change and Human Occupation in a Coastal Lowland,
vol. 46. Oxford University Committee for Archaeology,
Oxford, pp. 31– 44.
Long, A.J., Scaife, R.G., Edwards, R.J., 2000. Stratigraphic
architecture,
relative sea level, and models of estuary development in
southern England: New data from Southampton Water. In: Pye,
K., Allen, J.R.L. (Eds.), Coastal and Estuarine Environments:
Sedimentology, Geomorphology and Geoarchaeology. Spec.
Pub., vol. 175. Geological Society Publishing House, Bath,
pp. 253–279.
Long, A.J., Plater, A.J., Waller, M.P., Roberts, H., Laidler, P.D.,
Stupples, P., Schofield, E., 2004. The Depositional and Landscape
Histories of Dungeness Foreland and the Port of Rye: Understanding
Past Environments and Coastal Change. University of Durham.
24 pp.
Martino, R.L., Sanderson, D.D., 1993. Fourier and autocorrelation
analysis of estuarine tidal rhythmites, lower Breathitt formation
(Pennsylvanian), eastern Kentucky, USA. J. Sediment. Petrol. 63,
105–119.
Murray, J.W., 1971. An Atlas of British Recent Foraminiferids.
Heinemann, London.
Murray, J.W., 1979. British nearshore foraminiferids. In: Kermack,
D.M., Barnes, R.S.K. (Eds.), Synopses of the British Fauna (New
Series), vol. 16. Academic Press, London, p. 68.
Paul, M.A., Barras, B.F., 1998. A geotechnical correction for
postdepositional
sediment compression: examples from the Forth
Valley, Scotland. J. Quat. Sci. 13, 171– 176.
Pizzuto, J.E., Schwendt, A.E., 1997. Mathematical modelling of
autocompaction of a Holocene transgressive valley-fill deposit,
Wolfe Glade, Delaware. Geology 25, 57– 60.
Plater, A.J., Turner, S., 2002. Palaeoenvironmental investigations of
Allen’s Bank, Lydd. Unpublished report by the University of
Liverpool for Brett Aggregates Ltd., p. 76.
Plater, A.J., Long, A.J., Spencer, C.D., Delacour, R.A.P., 1999. The
stratigraphic record of sea-level change and storms during the last
2000 years: Romney Marsh, south-east England. Quat. Int. 55,
17–27.
Roep, T.P., van Regteren Altena, J.F., 1988. Paleotidal levels in tidal
sediments (3800–3635 BP) at Bovenkarspel, NW Netherlands. In:
de Boer, P.L., van Gelder, A., Nio, S.D. (Eds.), Tide-Influenced
Sedimentary Environments and Facies. Reidel, Dordrecht,
pp. 215–231.
Shennan, I., 1982. Interpretation of Flandrian sea-level data from the
Fenland, England. Proc. Geol. Assoc. 93, 53– 64.
Shennan, I., 1994. Data synthesis: altitudinal trends. In: Waller,
M.P. (Ed.), The Fenland Project, Number 9: Flandrian Environmental
Change in Fenland, East Anglian Archaeology, vol.
70, pp. 53– 60.
Skempton, A.W., 1970. The consolidation of clays by gravitational
compaction. Q. J. Geol. Soc. Lond. 125, 373– 411.
Smyth, C., Jennings, S., 1988. Mid to late Holocene forest composition
and the effects of clearances in the Combe Haven valleys,
East Sussex. Sussex. Archaeol. Collect. 126, 1– 20.
Spencer, C.D., Woodland, W., 2002. Palaeoenvironmental changes
during the last 4000 years at Scotney Marsh, Romney Marsh,
Kent: a multiproxy approach. In: Long, A.J., Hipkin, S., Clarke,
H. (Eds.), Romney Marsh: Coastal and Landscape Change
Through the Ages, vol. 56. Oxford University Committee for
Archaeology, Oxford, pp. 58–74.
Spencer, C.D., Plater, A.J., Long, A.J., 1998. Rapid coastal change
during the mid- to late-Holocene: the record of barrier estuary
sedimentation in the Romney Marsh region, south-east England.
Holocene 8, 143– 163.
Streif, H., 1972. The results of stratigraphical and facial
investigations
in the coastal Holocene of Woltzeten/Ostfriesland, Germany.
Geol. Fo¨ ren. Stockh. Fo¨ rh. 94, 281– 299.
Stuiver, M., Reimer, P.J., Bard, E., Beck, J.W., Burr, G.S., Hughen,
K.A., Kromer, B., McCormac, G., van der Plicht, J., Spurk, M.,
1998. INTCAL98 Radiocarbon age calibration, 24,000–0 cal BP.
Radiocarbon 40, 1041–1083.
Stupples, P., 2002. Tidal cycles preserved in late Holocene tidal
rhythmites, the Wainway Channel, Romney Marsh, southeast
England. Mar. Geol. 182, 231– 246.
Tessier, B., 1998. Tidal cycles, annual versus semi-lunar records. In:
Alexander, C.R., Davis, R.A., Henry, V.J. (Eds.), Tidalites, Processes
and Products. SEPM Spec. Publ., vol. 61, pp. 69– 74.
Tessier, B., Archer, A.W., Lanier, W.P., Feldman, H.R., 1995. Comparison
of ancient tidal rhythmites (Carboniferous of Kansas and
Indiana, USA) with modern analogues (the Bay of Mont-Saint-
Michel, France). In: Flemming, B.W., Bartholoma, A. (Eds.),
Tidal Signatures in Modern and Ancient Sediments. Spec. Publ.
Int. Assoc. Sedimentol., vol. 24, pp. 259– 274.
Tooley, M.J., 1978. Sea-Level Changes in North-West England during
the Flandrian Stage. Clarendon Press, Oxford.
Tooley, M.J., Switsur, R., 1988. Water level changes and sedimentation
during the Flandrian Age in the Romney Marsh area. In:
Eddison, J., Green, C. (Eds.), Romney Marsh: Evolution, Occupation,
Reclamation, vol. 24. Oxford University Committee for
Archaeology, Oxford, pp. 53–71.
Waller, M.P., 1993. Flandrian vegetational history of south-eastern
England. Pollen data from Pannel Bridge, East Sussex. New
Phytol. 124, 345– 369.
Waller, M.P., 1994a. The Fenland Project, Number 9: Flandrian
environmental
change in Fenland. East Ang. Archaeol. Rep. 70, 353.
Waller, M.P., 1994b. Flandrian vegetation history of south-eastern
England. Stratigraphy of the Brede valley and pollen data from
Brede Bridge. New Phytol. 126, 369– 392.
Waller, M.P., 1998. An investigation into the palynological properties
of fen peat through multiple pollen profiles from south-eastern
England. J. Archaeol. Sci. 25, 631– 642.
Waller, M.P., 2002. The Holocene vegetation history of the Romney
Marsh region. In: Long, A.J., Hipkin, S., Clarke, H. (Eds.),
Romney Marsh: Coastal and Landscape Change Through the
Ages, vol. 56. Oxford University Committee for Archaeology,
Oxford, pp. 1 – 21.
Waller, M.P., Kirby, J., 2002. Late Pleistocene/early Holocene
environmental
change in the Romney Marsh region: new evidence
from Tilling Green, Rye. In: Long, A.J., Hipkin, S., Clarke, H.
(Eds.), Romney Marsh: Coastal and Landscape Change Through
the Ages, vol. 56. Oxford University Committee for Archaeology,
Oxford, pp. 22– 39.
Waller, M.P., Long, A.J., 2002. Holocene coastal evolution and sealevel
change on the southern coast of England: a review. J. Quat.
Sci. 18, 251– 359.
Waller, M.P., Schofield, J.E., in press. Mid to late Holocene vegetation
and land use in the Weald of south-eastern England: multiple
pollen profiles from the Rye Area. Veg. Hist. Archaeobot.
Waller, M.P., Burrin, P.J., Marlow, A., 1988. Flandrian sedimentation
and palaeoenvironments in Pett Level, the Brede and Lower
Rother valleys and Walland Marsh. In: Eddison, J., Green, C.
(Eds.), Romney Marsh: Evolution, Occupation, Reclamation, vol.
24. Oxford University Committee for Archaeology, Oxford,
pp. 3– 30.
Waller, M.P., Long, A.J., Long, D., Innes, J.B., 1999. Patterns and
processes in the development of coastal mire vegetation: Multisite
investigations from Walland Marsh, South-east England.
Quat. Sci. Rev. 18, 1419– 1444.
Waller, M.P., Long, A.J., Schofield, J.E., in press. The interpretation
of radiocarbon dates from the upper surface of late Holocene peat
layers in coastal lowlands. Holocene.

Department of Geography