The Quaternary stratigraphy and geochronology of the Albemarle Embayment of the North Carolina (NC) Coastal Plain is examined using amino acid racemization (AAR) in marine mollusks, in combination with geophysical, lithologic, and biostratigraphic analysis of 28 rotasonic cores drilled between 2002 and 2006. The Albemarle Embayment is bounded by structural highs to the north and south, and Quaternary strata thin westward toward the Suffolk paleoshoreline, frequently referred to as the Suffolk Scarp. The Quaternary section is up to ???90. m thick, consists of a variety of estuarine, shelf, back-barrier, and lagoonal deposits, and has been influenced by multiple sea-level cycles. The temporal resolution of the amino acid racemization method is tested statistically and with the stratigraphic control provided by this geologic framework, and it is then applied to the correlation and age estimation of subsurface units throughout the region. Over 500 specimens (primarily Mercenaria and Mulinia) from the subsurface section have been analyzed using either gas chromatographic (GC) or reverse-phase liquid chromatographic (RPLC) techniques. The subsurface stratigraphic data are compared with AAR results from numerous natural or excavated exposures from the surrounding region, as well as results from NC beach collections, to develop a comprehensive aminostratigraphic database for the entire Quaternary record within the NC coastal system. Age mixing, recognized in the beach collections, is also seen in subsurface sections, usually where major seismic reflections or core lithology indicate the presence of stratigraphic discontinuities. Kinetic models for racemization are tested within the regional stratigraphic framework, using either radiocarbon or U-series calibrations or comparison with regional biostratigraphy. Three major Pleistocene aminozones [AZ2, AZ3, and AZ4] are found throughout the region, all being found in superposition in several cores. Each can be subdivided, yielding a total of at least eight stratigraphically and statistically distinct aminozones. Kinetic modeling, supplemented with local calibration, indicates that these aminozones represent depositional events ranging from ???80. ka to nearly 2. Ma. Three prominent seismic reflections are interpreted to represent the base of the early, middle, and late Pleistocene, respectively, roughly 2. Ma, 800. ka, and 130. ka. The large number of samples and the available stratigraphic control provide new insights into the capabilities and limitations of aminostratigraphic methods in assessing relative and numerical ages of Atlantic Coastal Plain Quaternary deposits. ?? 2009 Elsevier B.V.
Additional publication details
Aminostratigraphy of surface and subsurface Quaternary sediments, North Carolina coastal plain, USA