Source and supply of sediment to a shoreline salient in a fringing reef environment

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eef-associated landforms are coupled to the health of the reef ecosystem which produces the sediment that forms and maintains these landforms. However, this connection can make reef-fronted coastlines sensitive to the impacts of climate change, given that any decline in ecosystem health (e.g. decreasing sediment supply) or changes to physical processes (e.g. sea level rise, increasing wave energy) could drive the sediment budgets of these systems into a net erosive state. Therefore, knowledge of both the sediment sources and transport mechanisms is required to predict the sensitivity of reef-associated landforms to future climate change. Here, we examine the benthic habitat composition, sediment characteristics (composition, texture, and age), and transport mechanisms and pathways to understand the interconnections between coastal morphology and the reef system at Tantabiddi, Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia. Benthic surveys and sediment composition analysis revealed that although live coral accounts for less than 5% of the benthic cover, coral is the dominant sediment constituent (34% on average). Sediment ages (238U/230Th) were mostly found to be thousands of years old, suggesting that the primary sediment source is relic reef material (e.g. Holocene reef framework). Sediment transport across the lagoon was quantified through measurements of ripple migration rates, which were found to be shoreward migrating and responsible for feeding the large shoreline salient in the lee of the reef. The derived sediment fluxes were comparable with previously measured rates of sediment production by bioerosion. These results suggest that sediment budgets of systems dependent on old (>103 years) source materials may be more resilient to climate change as present-day reef health and community composition (i.e. sources of ‘new’ carbonate production) have limited influence on sediment supply. Therefore, the vulnerability of reef-associated landforms in these systems will be dictated by future changes to mechanisms of sediment generation (e.g. bioerosion) and/or physical processes. © 2018 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. © 2018 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)552-564
Number of pages13
JournalEarth Surface Processes and Landforms
Issue number2
Early online date19 Sept 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2019


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