Foraminiferal Evidence of Sediment Deformation Caused by Late Holocene Faulting in a Backbarrier Lagoon, Matagorda, Texas, USA
Abstract:The onset of a normal faulting event was observed in the late Holocene lagoon of the Matagorda Island, Texas. The faulting caused differential elevation changes across a transect perpendicular to the fault―much as it is doing in a present-day faulting event initiated after the 1940’s. The interpretation comes from assemblages of benthic foraminifera and supports other sedimentary evidence. A 115-m-long transect of seven vibracores was sampled across the active fault that cuts the Matagorda Island east of the Colorado River. Three cores lie on the upthrown block north of the fault, and four cores lie to the south on the downthrown block. The 1- to 4-m-long cores were split, described, and sampled at 20-cm intervals for foraminifera. Sediment subsamples of 0.25 cm3were washed on a sieve with 63-µm openings, split, and whole splits were picked until 100-300 specimens were recovered. Specimens were identified to species and tabulated. Samples were also taken at irregular intervals for radiocarbon dating.
The sediment section consists of lagoonal olive-brown (2. 5Y) mud and muddy sand intercalated by cleaner sand units (potentially overwash deposits) and oyster shell hash, all overlain by the brownish (10YR) subaerial sand of the barrier island. The mud and muddy sand contain high densities of foraminifera consisting of two assemblages: a diverse assemblage containing near equal numbers of miliolids and rotalids typical of a deep lagoon, and a low diversity assemblage dominated by Elphidiidae and Ammonia, a rotalid assemblage typical of lagoonal shoals. The latter is also associated with oyster shell hash and blades of the sea grass Halodule wrightii. The diverse assemblage is found throughout the muddy lagoonal sediment south of the fault up to the subaerial sands of Matagorda Island. In contrast, the foraminiferal assemblage grades upsection from the high- to the low-diversity assemblage after ~2500 yBP north of the fault, and is subsequently covered by the barrier sands. These data suggest that prior to ~2500 yBP the fault was inactive for a period, but activated soon afterward. The faulting allowed the lagoon to remain deeper on the southerly, downthrown side despite sediment accumulation accelerated by overwash from the transgressing barrier island. In contrast, the lagoon shallowed on the northerly upthrown block.