TERRAPUB Earth, Planets and Space

Earth Planets Space, Vol. 64 (No. 10), pp. 905-921, 2012

Shoreline changes and high-energy wave impacts at the leeward coast of Bonaire (Netherlands Antilles)

Max Engel1, Helmut Brückner1, Karoline Messenzehl2, Peter Frenzel3, Simon Matthias May1, Anja Scheffers4, Sander Scheffers5, Volker Wennrich6, and Dieter Kelletat1

1Institute of Geography, Universität zu Köln, Albertus-Magnus-Platz, 50923 Cologne, Germany
2Department of Geography, Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn, Meckenheimer Allee 166, 53115 Bonn, Germany
3Institute of Earth Sciences, Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena, Burgweg 11, 07749 Jena, Germany
4Southern Cross GeoScience, Southern Cross University, PO Box 157, Lismore NSW 2480, Australia
5Marine Ecology Research Centre, Southern Cross University, PO Box 157, Lismore NSW 2480, Australia
6Institute of Geology and Mineralogy, Universität zu Köln, Albertus-Magnus-Platz, 50923 Cologne, Germany

(Received December 7, 2010; Revised July 11, 2011; Accepted August 9, 2011; Online published October 24, 2012)

Abstract: Supralittoral coarse-clast deposits along the shores of Bonaire (Netherlands Antilles) as well as increased hurricane frequency during the past decade testify to the major hazard of high-energy wave impacts in the southern Caribbean. Since deducing certain events from the subaerial coarse-clast record involves major uncertainties and historical reports are restricted to the past 500 years, we use a new set of vibracore and push core data (i) to contribute to a more reliable Holocene history of regional extreme-wave events and (ii) to evaluate their impact on shoreline evolution. Multi-proxy palaeoenvironmental analyses (XRF, XRD, grain size distribution, carbonate, LOI, microfossils) were carried out using nearshore sedimentary archives from the sheltered western (leeward) side of Bonaire and its small neighbour Klein Bonaire. In combination with 14C-AMS age estimates the stratigraphy reflects a long-term coastal evolution controlled by relative sea level rise, longshore sediment transport, and short-term morphodynamic impulses by extreme wave action, all three of which may have significantly influenced the development of polyhaline lagoons and the demise of mangrove populations. Extreme wave events may be categorized into major episodic incidents (c. 3.6 ka [?] BP; 3.2-3.0 ka BP; 2.0-1.8 ka BP; post-1.3 ka [?] BP), which may correspond to tsunamis and periodic events recurring on the order of decades to centuries, which we interpret as severe tropical cyclones. Extreme wave events seem to control to a certain extent the formation of coastal ridges on Bonaire and, thus, to cause abrupt shifts in the long-term morphodynamic and ecological boundary conditions of the circumlittoral inland bays.
Key words: Washover deposits, tropical cyclones (hurricanes), tsunamis, Holocene stratigraphy, coastal hazards, environmental change, Caribbean.

Corresponding author E-mail: max.engel@uni-koeln.de

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