High-resolution seismic reflection profiling and surface texture mapping of the central California continental shelf, reveal a prominent subsurface reflector interpreted as a low stand erosion surface and an overlying mudbelt that covers 421 km2 of the mid-shelf in depths of 40-90 m. Radiometric and sedimentologic analyses of samples from vibracores taken along the seaward edge of the mudbelt show that initial deposition above the pre-Holocene erosion surface began ca. 14.5 ka. These data and model results of sea-level history, tectonics, and the Monterey Bay littoral sediment budget support the notion that the entire midshelf deposit was formed during the postglacial transgression. An alternative explanation, that <30% of the deposit is Holocene, requires that (1) sediment input is overestimated and/or loss is greatly underestimated, and (2) preservation on the shelf was significant despite deep and active wave scour observed in the form of rapid cliff and bedrock cutting early and late in the transgression. The difference between a basal age of ???14.5 ka and residence time of midshelf sediment (3,273 years), derived from dividing mudbelt volume by modern accumulation rate, implies: (1) significant sediment loss occurred since the mudbelt formed and/or (2) sediment accumulation has varied greatly over time. Although modern sediment budgets are relatively well constrained, it remains uncertain how well we can apply them to the past. An evolving model of sedimentation history explores the likelihood of changes in sediment supply, accumulation patterns, and depositional patterns owing to postglacial sea-level history and human land-use activities while providing important boundary conditions for modeling shoreface evolution.
Additional publication details
Budgeting postglacial sedimentation history on the Santa Cruz, California mid-continental shelf