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The global geoheritage significance of the Kimberley coast, Western Australia

Brocx, M. and Semeniuk, V. (2011) The global geoheritage significance of the Kimberley coast, Western Australia. Journal of the Royal Society of Western Australia, 94 (2). pp. 57-88.

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The Kimberley Coast in north-western Australia is of global geoheritage significance. It is a large-scale ria coast, with a well developed intricate indented rocky shoreline, with local nearshore islands (archipelago), and a distinct suite of coastal sediments. In addition to its intrinsic geoheritage values, its unique geological and geomorphological features are found in an unspoiled wilderness setting in which the ensemble of natural processes are still operating. The Kimberley Coast is cut into Precambrian rocks: the sandstones and basalts of the Kimberley Basin and, in the southern areas, into folded sedimentary rocks and metamorphic rocks of the King Leopold Orogen. The rocks of the region are well exposed along the shore to providing a global classroom by which to study the region's stratigraphy, structure, and lithology. The coastal forms in the Kimberley region have been determined by the structure and lithology of regional geology, interfaces between major geological units, by marine inundation of onshore landforms, and by the sizes, shapes and configuration of rivers, creeks, their tributaries, and other valley tracts in the region. The coast, however, is not just a continuous rocky shore composed of cliffs, and cliffs with benches, as it also has local sediment-filled gulfs and embayments, cliff shores fringed by mangroves, cliff shores with bouldery ribbons in the tidal zone, and stretches of beaches, and in the embayments, muddy tidal flats, spits, cheniers, tidal creeks cut into the tidal flats, and (embayment-head) alluvial fans. Locally, the coast is composed of algal reefs and coral reefs, beach rock, and various types of tempestites. The Kimberley Coast presents several features of geoheritage significance: 1. with ~ 700 km of (simplified) coastal length, it presents the best and most extensive expression of ria morphology in Australia, and also one of the best developed globally; 2. the occurrence of the shore in a monsoonal subhumid/humid tropical macrotidal setting, with processes distinct to this setting; as a tropical-climate ria, in terms of size and morphology, it is globally unique; 3. the morphology of the shores, variable in form in response to the grain of the country (viz., the Kimberley Basin versus the King Leopold Orogen) and lithology; 4. variation of rocky shores along its length in terms of mesoscale shore types; 5. the sedimentary packages that occur in the region; 6. mangrove-lined rocky shores and embayed shores, with the latter also related to freshwater seepage; and 7. biogenic and diagenetic coasts.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Environmental Science
Publisher: Royal Society of Western Australia
Copyright: © Royal Society of Western Australia 2011
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