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Geoheritage at the small scale: Tidal-zone bubble-sand structures as diagnostic paleo-environmental indicators, and their geoheritage significance

Semeniuk, V. and Brocx, M. (2019) Geoheritage at the small scale: Tidal-zone bubble-sand structures as diagnostic paleo-environmental indicators, and their geoheritage significance. Australian Journal of Earth Sciences, 66 (6). pp. 913-922.

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In identifying sites of geoheritage significance, commonly there has been an emphasis on the larger-scale features. However, the story of geology and the significant features that are critical to unravel geological processes and geological history are commonly small in scale. This contribution focuses on bubble sand and bubble-sand structures as features that are small-scale but nonetheless important to geology, and hence are of geoheritage significance. Bubble sand and bubble-sand structures are ubiquitous on modern beaches and tidal flats, occurring in the uppermost tidal zone of sandy beaches, as a distinct layer in a shoaling beach-to-dune stratigraphy, and are a diagnostic indicator of upper-tidal conditions where a rising tide and a concomitantly rising water-table interacts with the upper swash-zone wave processes. On sandy tidal flats, bubble sand and bubble-sand structures may occur in the mid- to upper-tidal zones; here they are also diagnostic indicators of tidal conditions, forming during a rising tide where a rising water-table forces air upwards to be trapped in moist sand. If found in ancient sequences, bubble-sand structures are a powerful environmental indicator of tidal conditions and, for beach sequences, an indicator of the high-tide level and sea level. Bubble-sand structures have been found in a number of ancient sequences throughout the geological record as far back as the Neoproterozoic, e.g. within beach-to-dune stratigraphy in Pleistocene limestones of the Perth Basin and in southeastern USA, and in tidal-flat sands of the Mesozoic Broome Sandstone of the Canning Basin. The bubble-sand structure is a significant geological tool for use in paleo-environmental and paleo-oceanographic reconstructions, and determination of the position of a paleo-water-table. Given the rarity of their preservation, these occurrences of bubble-sand structures are of geoheritage significance in their own right and, depending on age of sequence and how common they are in the region, they may be nationally significant or globally significant.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Environmental and Conservation Sciences
Publisher: Taylor & Francis
Copyright: 2019 Geological Society of Australia
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