Holocene sedimentation in a blue hole surrounded by carbonate tidal flats in The Bahamas: Autogenic versus allogenic processes

TitleHolocene sedimentation in a blue hole surrounded by carbonate tidal flats in The Bahamas: Autogenic versus allogenic processes
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2020
Authorsvan Hengstum, PJ, Winkler, TS, Tamalavage, AE, Sullivan, RM, Little, SN, MacDonald, D, Donnelly, JP, Albury, NA
JournalMarine Geology
Date PublishedJan-01-2020
KeywordsCarbonate tidal flats, carbonates, North Atlantic Bahamas, sinkhole

The sediment in North Atlantic blue holes preserves paleoclimate records. However, accurate paleoclimate reconstructions require an improved understanding of allogenic versus autogenic processes controlling blue hole sedimentation. Here we provide a detailed case study of the Holocene stratigraphy within Freshwater River Blue Hole, which is currently surrounded by carbonate tidal flats in the northern Bahamas (Abaco Island). During the Holocene, concomitant coastal aquifer elevation and relative sea-level rise controlled internal blue hole depositional environments. The general Holocene facies succession observed is: (i) basal detrital and freshwater peat, (ii) palustrine to lacustrine marl, (iii) algal sapropel, and finally (iv) bedded carbonate mud. During the middle Holocene when groundwater levels were lower, small changes in accommodation space that were inherited from the bedrock surface below (<1 m) were able to promote significant lateral facies changes. Multiple cores are needed to characterize these lateral facies changes. Hydrographic characteristics of the coastal aquifer (e.g., vertical position, stratification, salinity) relative to the blue hole benthos exert a fundamental control on (a) benthic flora and meiofauna (e.g., charophytes, ostracodes, foraminifera, gastropods) and (b) organic matter production and preservation from pelagic productivity. Over the last 5000 years, water column stratification in Freshwater River Blue Hole was interrupted on millennial to sub-decadal timescales , which are potentially linked to changing aquifer recharge and rainfall. Lastly, historical intense hurricanes passing closely to the west of the site may have promoted deposition of coarse beds at the site. However, the lack of carbonate tidal flat microfaunal remains (foraminifera: Peneroplis) within these coarse intervals indicates that Freshwater River Blue Hole does not preserve a reliable record of hurricane-induced overwash deposition from the carbonate tidal flats during the last 2300 years.