A novel, 10,000-year study of strata compaction and sea-level rise on English coast

Dec 10, 2009
Researchers from both sides of the Atlantic Ocean are coring a coastal lake in the United Kingdom. Credit: University of Pennsylvania and Durham University

Environmental scientists at the University of Pennsylvania and Durham University have employed a novel combination of geological and model reconstructions of wetland environments during a 10,000-year period to address spatial variations in sea-level history and provide quantitative estimates of subsidence along the east coast of England.

The findings indicate that glacial rebound — the rise or fall of land masses that were depressed by the huge weight of ice sheets during the last glacial period — explains differences in relative sea levels along the English coast. Current sea levels in Northeast England, the most northerly study area, have been receding to their present level for the past 4,000 years.

Unlike Northeast , however, the Tees Estuary, Humber Estuary, Lincolnshire Marshes, Fenlands and North Norfolk area all reveal sea-level histories trending upward during the past 10,000 years. Using data from up to 20 meters deep, researchers found that sediment compaction explained the variations in sea-level observations at every study area, revealing striking correlations to the thickness of overlying sediment.

Coastal subsidence enhances recent rise, which leads to shoreline erosion and threatens to permanently submerge socio-economically and environmentally valuable wetlands. Yet the causes of subsidence remain controversial, and estimates of subsidence rates vary widely. This collaborative study offers insight into the future behavior of these environmental systems and is an effort to inform policy and management decisions for coastal protection.

"Rising sea levels threaten to permanently submerge wetland environments," said Benjamin P. Horton, assistant professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Science at Penn. "Management decisions regarding the best way to intervene to protect these environments depend upon empirically informed, scientific data for each of the processes operating in wetland systems, including sediment compaction. This is a high-profile topic, which is subject to a great deal of controversy, especially concerning the on-going discussions of why deltas around the world are losing wetlands at a particularly alarming rate."

The study is published in the current issue of the journal Geology.

Source: University of Pennsylvania (news : web)

Explore further: Clean air: Fewer sources for self-cleaning

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

New study fuels Louisiana subsidence controversy

Jul 21, 2006

While erosion and wetland loss are huge problems along Louisiana's coast, the basement 30 to 50 feet beneath much of the Mississippi Delta has been highly stable for the past 8000 years with negligible subsidence ...

New coastland map could help strengthen sea defenses

Oct 06, 2009

The 'Coastland Map' produced by scientists from Durham University and published in the Journal GSA Today, charts the post Ice-Age tilt of the UK and Ireland and current relative sea-level changes. According to the map, t ...

Healthy coastal wetlands would adapt to rising oceans

Mar 28, 2007

Tidal marshes, which nurture marine life and reduce storm damage along many coastlines, should be able to adjust to rising sea levels and avoid being inundated and lost, if their vegetation isn't damaged and their supplies ...

Recommended for you

Clean air: Fewer sources for self-cleaning

7 hours ago

Up to now, HONO, also known as nitrous acid, was considered one of the most important sources of hydroxyl radicals (OH), which are regarded as the detergent of the atmosphere, allowing the air to clean itself. ...

There's something ancient in the icebox

7 hours ago

Glaciers are commonly thought to work like a belt sander. As they move over the land they scrape off everything—vegetation, soil, and even the top layer of bedrock. So scientists were greatly surprised ...

Image: Grand Canyon geology lessons on view

14 hours ago

The Grand Canyon in northern Arizona is a favorite for astronauts shooting photos from the International Space Station, as well as one of the best-known tourist attractions in the world. The steep walls of ...

First radar vision for Copernicus

15 hours ago

Launched on 3 April, ESA's Sentinel-1A satellite has already delivered its first radar images of Earth. They offer a tantalising glimpse of the kind of operational imagery that this new mission will provide ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Shootist
5 / 5 (1) Dec 10, 2009
"Coastal subsidence . . . leads to shoreline erosion and threatens to permanently submerge socio-economically and environmentally valuable wetlands."

Coastal subsidence has been submerging "socio-economically and environmentally valuable wetlands" since there WERE wetlands.

What makes anyone believe that such processes can be stopped?

More news stories

There's something ancient in the icebox

Glaciers are commonly thought to work like a belt sander. As they move over the land they scrape off everything—vegetation, soil, and even the top layer of bedrock. So scientists were greatly surprised ...

Clean air: Fewer sources for self-cleaning

Up to now, HONO, also known as nitrous acid, was considered one of the most important sources of hydroxyl radicals (OH), which are regarded as the detergent of the atmosphere, allowing the air to clean itself. ...

China says massive area of its soil polluted

A huge area of China's soil covering more than twice the size of Spain is estimated to be polluted, the government said Thursday, announcing findings of a survey previously kept secret.

Better thermal-imaging lens from waste sulfur

Sulfur left over from refining fossil fuels can be transformed into cheap, lightweight, plastic lenses for infrared devices, including night-vision goggles, a University of Arizona-led international team ...

Hackathon team's GoogolPlex gives Siri extra powers

(Phys.org) —Four freshmen at the University of Pennsylvania have taken Apple's personal assistant Siri to behave as a graduate-level executive assistant which, when asked, is capable of adjusting the temperature ...