RAPID ENVIRONMENTAL CHANGE EVENTS IN ALABAMA ESTUARIES
Incised valley-fill is composed of thin (< 2 m) fluvial and/or alluvial plain deposits at the base, which are overlain by up to 10 m of central basin mud. The flooding surface between fluvial and/or alluvial plain deposits and central basin sediments is sharp. The absence of bay-head delta deposits in Mississippi Sound, Mobile Bay, and Weeks Bay indicates that estuaries formed suddenly and bay-head deltas shifted landward at catastrophic rates. For example, the Mobile Bay-head Delta began aggrading at its present location around 9,700 cal. yr BP and central basin sediments began accumulating in the incised valley south of the delta shortly after, around 9,200 cal. yr BP. Both bay-head delta and central basin sediments accumulated directly above alluvial plain deposits. Rapid bay-head delta backstepping events are documented in fluvial systems of various sizes; however, these events did not occur coevally. This implies that the forcing mechanism was not an increase in the rate of sea-level rise, but rather an autocyclic response to flooding gently sloping antecedent topography (terraces). Interactions between relative sea-level rise and antecedent topography plays an important roll in incised valley-fill architecture and estuarine evolution.