Coastal erosion, including sea-cliff retreat, represents both an important component of some sediment budgets and a significant threat to coastal communities in the face of rising sea level. Despite the importance of predicting future rates of coastal erosion, few prehistoric constraints exist on the relative importance of sediment supplied by coastal erosion versus rivers with respect to past sea-level change. We used detrital zircon U-Pb geochronology as a provenance tracer of river and deep-sea fan deposits from the Southern California Borderland (United States) to estimate relative sediment contributions from rivers and coastal erosion from late Pleistocene to present. Mixture modeling of submarine canyon and fan samples indicates that detrital zircon was dominantly (55%–86%) supplied from coastal erosion during latest Pleistocene (ca. 13 ka) sea-level rise, with lesser contributions from rivers, on the basis of unique U-Pb age modes relative to local Peninsular Ranges bedrock sources. However, sediment that was deposited when sea level was stable at its highest and lowest points since the Last Glacial Maximum was dominantly supplied by rivers, suggesting decreased coastal erosion during periods of sea-level stability. We find that relative sediment supply from coastal erosion is strongly dependent on climate state, corroborating predictions of enhanced coastal erosion during future sea-level rise.

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