Abstract

Some of the striking results of the papers published in the special publication “French Incised valleys, estuaries and lagoons” of the Bulletin de la Société géologique de France are presented and compared. The selection of papers within this volume focuses exclusively on the recent progress made on modern French incised valleys, estuaries and lagoons around the coasts of France. Those papers together with abundant papers recently published on modern French incised valleys provide new insights for the knowledge on these sedimentary systems. The large amount of new results obtained is indebted to an extensive exploration within a large variety of estuaries, lagoons and coastal areas, from macrotidal tide-dominated, to microtidal wave-dominated, with also meso- to macrotidal mixed tide- and wave-dominated estuaries. These data allow comparing incised valleys within the same setting of tectonically stable and sediment starved margins, but showing contrasted conditions of hydrodynamics, sediment supply and bedrock control. At a stratigraphic level, sea-level variation is the main parameter controlling incised valley formation and sediment fill. The first-order controlling factor explaining the observed variations in valley fills is hydrodynamics. Three valley-fill categories are highlighted: tide-dominated, mixed tide-and-wave and wave-dominated, that match the classification based on hydrodynamics and morphology of present-day estuaries or lagoons. The second-order controlling factor explaining the observed variations in valley fills is the antecedent morphology of the bedrock, which in turn controls hydrodynamics and sediment supply. Finally, a promising result is the demonstration of the potential of incised valley fills to record high frequency environmental changes related to climate events and human activities.

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