The AD 1755 tsunami deposits onshore and offshore of Algarve (south Portugal): Sediment transport interpretations based on the study of Foraminifera assemblages

TitleThe AD 1755 tsunami deposits onshore and offshore of Algarve (south Portugal): Sediment transport interpretations based on the study of Foraminifera assemblages
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsQuintela, M, Costa, PJM, Fatela, F, Drago, T, Hoska, N, Andrade, C, Freitas, MC
JournalQuaternary International
Volume408, Part A
Pagination123 - 138

Abstract Tsunamis are amongst the most catastrophic natural hazards affecting worldwide coastal areas. Their impacts are recorded in the geological archives and its study provides crucial insights into the dynamics and intensity of these events. The accurate establishment of return periods can also be derived using sedimentological data. Onshore tsunami deposits have been extensively described over recent years through the application of a wide range of sedimentological proxies, including micropalaeontological analysis. In this work, the identification of palaeotsunami evidence, in both the onshore and offshore sedimentary record of south Portugal, was performed, relying mostly on the study of Foraminifera assemblages. Three onshore trenches and one offshore core were analyzed and imprints of the \{AD\} 1755 tsunami were observed based in the identification of allochthonous foraminiferal species, increase in the number of broken/abraded tests and its correlation with coarser mean grain size. This was possible after micropalaeontological environmental characterization of both low-energy onshore and offshore present-day sedimentation regimes. In the onshore record, three distinct sediment transport phases were differentiated within the tsunamigenic unit. The basal phase portraying the initial inundation represented by the dominance of marine Foraminifera species in a highly diverse assemblage. The higher energetic character of this phase was also reflected in the identification of the highest number of broken/abraded tests. The intermediate phase reflects an unspecified number of inundation and backwash pulses that were recognized based in the well-balanced presence of estuarine (brackish) and marine species, the sharp decrease in the diversity index and in the number of broken/abraded tests. The final phase recorded in the tsunamigenic unit registers the imprint of the last relevant backwash which was identified based on the dominance of estuarine (brackish) fauna. The overlying unit is dominated by tidal marsh species, demonstrating the start of the coastal system recovery phase. In the offshore record, it was possible to identify 2 distinct historical tsunami events (AD 1755 and \{AD\} 1969). This was achieved through the identification of significant increases in coastal Foraminifera species coupled with the presence of coarser layers. This interpretation was sustained by indirect age-estimation methods (radiocarbon and 210Pb) that ascribed compatible ages to the historical tsunami events. The results obtained in this study stress the relevance and innovative character of this onshore and offshore multiproxy approach in the recognition and understanding of tsunami events.