Impacts of Sea-Level Rise and Human Activity on a Tropical Continental Shelf, RN State, NE Brazil

Tuesday, 16 December 2014: 3:10 PM
Helenice Vital1, Tiago Rafael Barros Pereira1, Henrique Ferreira Lira1, Werner F Tabosa1, Patricia Eichler1, Karl Stattegger2, Barun K. Sen Gupta3, Moab Praxedes Gomes1, Mary Lucia da Silva Nogueira1 and Guilherme Cherem Schwarzgui Pierri1, (1)UFRN Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte, Natal, Brazil, (2)University of Kiel, Kiel, Germany, (3)Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA, United States
The northeastern Brazilian, tropical coast-shelf system along the Atlantic Ocean is a sediment-starved zone, because of low relief, small drainage basins, and a semiarid climate. This work presents the major results of a study of environmental changes, particularly those related to Holocene sea-level rise, affecting the coast and shallow waters of Rio Grande do Norte (RN) State, NE Brazil. The methods included bottom-sediment characterization, bioindicator tracking, and integrated shallow-water geophysical investigation. This coastline is marked by active sea cliffs carved into tablelands alternating with reef- or dune-barrier sections, beach rocks and lagoons, whereas the shelf is a narrow, very shallow, and highly energetic system. Overall, the area is under the natural influence of tides (with a semidiurnal mesotidal regime) and the anthropogenic influence of salt exploration, oil industry, shrimp farms, tourism, and wind-farms. Sedimentation during the Holocene has been controlled mainly by sea-level variation, longshore currents, and the advance and westward propagation of active dunes along the coast. As in other areas around the world, growing numbers of permanent and seasonal residents choose to live at or near the ocean. Coastal erosion is a cause for concern along many Brazilian beaches, and several erosion hot spots are already recognized in RN State. Curves of Holocene relative sea-level variation were established for RN State, but the absence of long-term oceanographic observations in the last centuries or that of detailed altimetry maps hinders the evaluation of different risk scenarios at the local level. Nevertheless, impacts of the current sea-level rise and human activity can be observed along the RN coastal-shelf system. Particular aspects of the study, such as oil-spill monitoring, coastal-water sewage contamination, and coastal erosion, will be highlighted.