The purpose of this study was to determine if and how a large, modern estuarine system, situated in the middle of an ancient carbonate platform, has affected its adjacent inner shelf both in the past during the last, post-glacial sea-level rise and during the present. An additional purpose was to determine if and how this inner shelf seaward of a major estuary differed from the inner shelves located just to the north and south but seaward of barrier-island shorelines. Through side-scan sonar mosaicking, bathymetric studies, and ground-truthing using surface grab samples as well as diver observations, two large submarine sand plains were mapped - one being the modern ebb-tidal delta and the other interpreted to be a relict ebb-tidal delta formed earlier in the Holocene. The most seaward portion of the inner shelf studied consists of a field of lobate, bathymetrically elevated, fine-sand accumulations, which were interpreted to be sediment-starved 3D dunes surrounded by small 2D dunes composed of coarse molluscan shell gravel. Additionally, exposed limestone hardbottoms supporting living benthic communities were found as well. This modern shelf sedimentary environment is situated on a large, buried shelf valley, which extends eastward beneath the modern Tampa Bay estuary. These observations plus the absence of an incised shelf valley having surficial bathymetric expression, and the absence of sand bodies normally associated with back-tracking estuarine systems indicate that there was no cross-shelf estuarine retreat path formed during the last rise in sea level. Instead, the modern Tampa Bay formed within a mid-platform, low-relief depression, which was flooded by rising marine waters late in the Holocene. With continued sea-level rise in the late Holocene, this early embayment was translated eastward or landward to its present position, whereby a larger ebb-tidal delta prograded out onto the inner shelf. Extensive linear sand ridges, common to the inner shelves to the north and south, did not form in this shelf province because it was a low-energy, open embayment lacking the wave climate and nearshore zone necessary to create such sand bodies. The distribution of bedforms on the inner shelf and the absence of seaward-oriented 2D dunes on the modern ebb-tidal delta indicate that the modern estuarine system has had little effect on its adjacent inner shelf. ?? 2003 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Additional publication details
Late Holocene estuarine-inner shelf interactions; is there evidence of an estuarine retreat path for Tampa Bay, Florida?