Age, distribution, and significance within a sediment budget, of in-channel depositional surfaces in the Normanby River, Queensland, Australia
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We present the results of investigations into alluvial deposition in the catchment of the Normanby River, which flows into Princess Charlotte Bay (PCB) in the northern part of the Great Barrier Reef Lagoon. Our focus is on the fine fraction (< ~ 63 μm) of alluvial deposits that sit above the sand and gravel bars of the channel floor, but below the expansive flat surface generally referred to as the floodplain. Variously described as benches, bank attached bars or inset or inner floodplains, these more or less flat-lying surfaces within the macro-channel have hitherto received little attention in sediment budgeting models. We use high resolution LiDAR based mapping combined with optical dating of exposures cut into these in-channel deposits to compare their aggradation rates with those found in other depositional zones in the catchment, namely the floodplain and coastal plain. In total 59 single grain OSL dates were produced across 21 stratigraphic profiles at 14 sites distributed though the 24 226 km2 catchment. In-channel storage in these inset features is a significant component of the contemporary fine sediment budget (i.e. recent decades/last century), annually equivalent to more than 50% of the volume entering the channel network from hillslopes and subsoil sources. Therefore, at the very least, in-channel storage of fine material needs to be incorporated into sediment budgeting exercises. Furthermore, deposition within the channel has occurred in multiple locations coincident in time with accelerated sediment production following European settlement. Generally, this has occurred on a subset of the features we have examined here, namely linear bench features low in the channel. This suggests that accelerated aggradation on in-channel depositional surfaces has been in part a response to accelerated erosion within the catchment. The entire contribution of ~ 370 kilotonnes per annum of fine sediment estimated to have been produced by alluvial gully erosion over the last ~ 100 years can be accounted for by that stored as in-channel alluvium. These features therefore can play an important role in mitigating the impact on the receiving water of accelerated erosion.
Geomorphology and Regolith and Landscape Evolution