Annual textural banding in Holocene estuarine silts, Severn Estuary Levels (SW Britain): patterns, cause and implications
Allen, J. R. L. (2004) Annual textural banding in Holocene estuarine silts, Severn Estuary Levels (SW Britain): patterns, cause and implications. Holocene, 14 (4). pp. 536-552. ISSN 0959-6836
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To link to this item DOI: 10.1191/0959683604hl730rp
A high-resolution textural study has been made of laminated and banded estuarine silts exposed intertidally at representative localities and horizons in the Holocene deposits of the Severn Estuary Levels. The laminae, on a submillimetre to millimetre scale, are sharp-based, graded couplets formed of a lower silty part overlain by a finer-textured clayey element. The centimetre- to decimetre-scale banding is formed of laminae in alternating, gradually intergrading sets of relatively coarse and relative fine-grained examples. At outcrop in the field, the banding is recognizable because the coarse sets prove to be recessive to varying degrees under the influence of weathering and current action. Independent evidence at two localities points toward an annual origin for the banding; at a third it arose during part of what appears to have been a relatively short period. Quantified physical arguments suggest that the textural banding is a response of suspended fine sediment to marked seasonal changes in sea temperature and windiness. The banded silts occur in four distinct stratigraphical contexts and record high deposition rates (order 0.01-0.1 m/yr). Because physical factors determine their textures, the silts potentially afford insights in all contexts into aspects of changing Holocene climatic conditions. In one context, the thickness of the bands points to high (order 0.01-0.1 m/yr) but comparatively short-lived (order 10s-100s yrs) rates of relative water-level rise. In the others, however, the banding has no implications for sea-level behaviour, and simply records gross environmental disequilibrium, for example, the recovery of mudflats/marshes after an erosional episode. Similarly, because on account of their rapid accumulation the banded silts preserve animal and human tracks and trackways especially well, they provide an archive of animal and human behaviour in the area during the Holocene.