Dataset: Fitzroy River Basin, Queensland, Australia. III. Identification of Sediment Sources in the Coastal Zone


Sediment sources to the Fitzroy River coastal zone have been identified and quantified using an integrated geochemical and modelling approach. Geochemical data indicate a sediment composition consistent with derivation from mixed catchment sources. The coastal sediments display little geochemical variation as a result of substantial homogenisation during hydrodynamic processes. A lack of substantial temporal geochemical variation in the sediment records indicates weathering regimes and hydrodynamic transport have been relatively consistent throughout the Holocene. Despite this apparent geochemical homogeneity, a modelling approach using a Bayesian statistical model revealed changes in catchment sediment sources over time. Variations in the occurrence and intensity of rainfall events in different parts of the catchment as well as catchment clearing and landuse changes following European settlement are likely to have had a substantial effect on the relative contributions of the catchment sources delivered to and deposited in the coastal zone. Additionally, large variations in flow events and variable estuary hydrodynamics result in different catchment soil types being delivered and deposited under different conditions. This study found that the proportion of basaltic material deposited in the coastal zone has increased in recent time and is now the dominant catchment source with an estimated enrichment of ca. 3 relative to catchment and estuary abundances. Basaltic soils present as a more recent and extensive, weathered surficial cover are more readily mobilised than other catchment soils and will be transported further within freshwater flood plumes. It is likely that in large flood events this basaltic material may reach the coral-dominated outer shelf. Improved land management practices to reduce sediment loads can be targeted to the areas supplying the majority of sediment to the coastal zone.

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