Abstract

A sedimentary sequence that was highly sensitive to fault rupture–driven changes in water level and sediment supply has been used to extract a continuous record of 22 large earthquakes on the Alpine fault, the fastest-slipping fault in New Zealand. At Hokuri Creek, in South Westland, an 18 m thickness of Holocene sediments accumulated against the Alpine fault scarp from ca. A.D. 800 to 6000 B.C. We used geomorphological mapping, sedimentology, and paleoenvironmental reconstruction to investigate the relationship between these sediments and Alpine fault rupture. We found that repeated fault rupture is the most convincing mechanism for explaining all the features of the alternating peat and silt sedimentary sequence. Climate has contributed to sedimentation but is unlikely to be the driver of these cyclical changes in sediment type and paleoenvironment. Other nontectonic causes for the sedimentary alternations do not produce the incremental increase in basin accommodation space necessary to maintain the shallow-water environment for 6800 yr. Our detailed documentation of this near-fault sedimentary basin sequence highlights the advantages of extracting paleoearthquake records from such sites—the continuity of sedimentation, abundance of dateable material, and pristine preservation of older events.

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