Paper No. 82-3
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-5:30 PM
UTILIZING COASTAL WETLAND STRATIGRAPHY TO IDENTIFY PALEOSEISMIC EVENTS AND CHARACTERIZE MARSH RESPONSE AND RECOVERY TO SEISMICALLY-INDUCED SEA LEVEL RISE IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
Salt marshes worldwide are under increasing stress from eustatic sea level rise. Along the tectonically active west coast of North America, some salt marshes are also vulnerable to abrupt increases in relative sea level rise (RSLR) resulting from coseismic subsidence. Elevation zonation of sub-environments within a marsh provides the opportunity to interpret the sedimentary record in marshes to infer past earthquakes, which may improve understanding of regional seismic hazards and ecosystem response to increases in sea level. Our study area is the Seal Beach Wetlands (SBW), an ~3 km2 salt marsh straddling the seismically active Newport-Inglewood fault zone in southern California. A previous study of the SBW identified sedimentary evidence of three coseismic subsidence events. Here, our goals were to identify coseismic subsidence events preserved in SBW stratigraphy and to quantify marsh recovery following an earthquake to assess marsh resiliency to rapid RSLR. To do this, we focused on one core collected near the fringe of the SBW and applied a suite of sedimentary and geochemical analyses. Our results indicated that the SBW may preserve sedimentary evidence of four potential coseismic subsidence events. Events were distinguished in the stratigraphy by a sharp upper contact interpreted as an abrupt shift in marsh depositional sub-environments, from a vegetated marsh, to an intertidal mudflat or a subtidal environment. This stratigraphy suggests that the marsh rapidly subsided, preserving the evidence of the vegetated marsh as a peat deposit overlain by a low-organic mud or muddy-sand layer. A typical marsh accretion facies succession occurred above each earthquake event in the core, suggesting full marsh recovery. From the core data, we also observed that the net average rate of marsh recovery, i.e., marsh accretion, was consistent. Estimated recovery rates between 0.6 and 1.1 mm/yr were comparable to the overall accretion rate and regional late Holocene RSLR rate of 0.8 mm/yr. These results suggest that following a coseismic subsidence event the marsh recovery rate is relatively constant. Therefore, marsh resiliency to rapid increases in sea level depends on the rate of RSLR relative to the rate of recovery, which in this case is controlled by the amount of subsidence per event, and the frequency of events.