Abstract

Coastal dune accumulations at locations around the world have formed during sea-level highstands, rising sea levels, falling sea levels, and fluctuating sea levels. Initially, episodes of maximum Pleistocene dune activity in Bermuda, which is the type location for eolianite, were correlated with glacio-eustatic regressions. This model had been abandoned by the 1970s in favor of a rising sea-level model for Bermuda’s north shore and autogenic sediment-supply model for the south shore. We report the results of a detailed investigation of the intercalated mid-late Pleistocene beach and coastal dune deposits on the islands of Bermuda, and we test the existing models for these deposits. We contend that the north shore model is invalidated by past misidentification of eolian deposits as transgressive beach deposits. On the south shore, facies analysis of the marine isotope stage 7 (MIS 7) Belmont Formation reveals that coastal deposition was divided into two phases. S1, which includes foreshore and shoreface progradation, is predominantly marine and coincided with rising relative sea level. S2, which commenced with protosol development on top of the marine section prior to burial by advancing dunes, is nonmarine. We conclude that the two successions S1 and S2 resulted from forcing by glacio-hydro-isostatic relative sea-level change spanning a highstand (rising and then falling), rather than from transgressive or autogenic processes. The finding that, in Bermuda, the construction of protective coastal dunes depends on a falling relative sea level has potential implications for many vulnerable shorelines that face rising relative sea levels associated with climate change.

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