Investigating the coastal paleo-seismic and paleo-tsunami records using vermetid benches in the Eastern Mediterranean: case of the Palm Islands reserve -Lebanon.

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Ata Elias, American University of Beirut, Beirut, 1107, Lebanon
The vermetid benches or reefs are thick bio-constructions of marine shells of the Vermetidae group that thrive at sea-level and are used as proxy for crustal tectonic deformation, sea-level changes, paleoclimate reconstruction or paleo-Tsunami markers in different regions especially around the Mediterranean Sea. The Palm Islands Reserve located 5km offshore northern Lebanon in the Eastern Mediterranean, on the hanging wall of a submarine, active thrust fault – the Rankine-Abdeh fault – hold abundant vermetid bio-constructions that are still relatively well preserved. It is an exceptional site for testing and investigating hypothesis on the use of the vermetid benches. We surveyed the surface and shorelines of the Palm Island, the largest of the Islands. The fossil vermetid bio-constructions are present as uplifted benches on its northern side. Also, many of the large boulders mostly found on the south-western shore of the islands still hold vermetid bio-constructions originally from the intertidal position before the boulders were uplifted and thrown over the surface of the island away from the shoreline by powerful waves. Two continuous vertical sections of these bio-constructions, 7 and 13cm thick were sampled for radiocarbon dating. Of the 21 large boulders we surveyed 10 had their vermetid crusts sampled for 14C dating. Their measured radiocarbon ages are spread over many centuries and do not cluster around any single date that could correspond with that of a tsunami or storm event responsible for their transport. On another hand the radiocarbon ages from the uplifted benches show that the last co-seismic rupture of the underlying and offshore Rankine-Abdeh thrust took place after the 9th century AD and resulted in the tectonic uplift of the Palm Islands shoreline, by around 80cm. Interpretation of the morphology and ages of the vermetid bio-constructions found on the overthrown boulders suggest that another such co-seismic event happened towards the end of the 4th millennium BC. Finally two vertical growth rates of the vermetid bio-constructions were estimated for the Palm Island location around 0.049 cm/yr during the 6-9th century AD and 0.033 cm/yr during the late 4th millennium BC.