Abstract

Selective development and preservation of major shoreline complexes on the continental shelf provide geomorphic evidence in support of alternating periods of Holocene sea-level stillstand and rapid rise during meltwater pulses. On a tectonically stable far-field setting (the southeast African shelf), regionally developed, well-preserved shoreline complexes occur at ∼–100 m and ∼–60 m within an overall shelf sequence dominated by transgressive ravinement (non-preservation of shorelines). The development of geomorphically mature submerged shorelines with equilibrium forms is attributed to extended periods of sea-level stability, and their preservation is the result of early cementation followed by very rapid sea-level rise (several centimeters per year) that caused overstepping. Meltwater Pulses 1A and 1B are recorded in the shelf stratigraphy and geomorphology. Setting aside local influences of topography and sediment supply, we hypothesize that shelf stratigraphies should preferentially preserve shorelines at water depths associated with the stillstands or slowstands immediately preceding meltwater pulses. A reappraisal of shelf stratigraphy and geomorphology, in particular the preservation potential of former shorelines, is required in the light of contemporary understanding of postglacial sea-level history.

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