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Stratigraphy of Quaternary inner-shelf sediments in Tai O Bay, Hong Kong, based on ground-truthed seismic profiles

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High-resolution boomer profiles from Tai O Bay, Hong Kong SAR, were ground-truthed using ten discontinuously sampled boreholes penetrating bedrock with a maximum length of 82.1 m. The relationship between depth below seabed and seismic profiles was established through the measurement of two borehole compressional-wave velocity profiles. In departure from previous interpretations, nine Quaternary seismic units were identified, which can be divided into eight systems tracts formed by cycles of fourth-order sea-level fluctuations dating back at least to marine isotope stage (MIS) 7 (ca. 190–245 ka). These consist of two lowstand systems tracts, two transgressive systems tracts, and four highstand systems tracts. Secondary unconformities within the highstand deposits are interpreted to document fifth-order sea-level fluctuations. Lowstand deposits are less common because, as soon as the sea level drops by a few metres, Tai O Bay becomes sub-aerially exposed, leading to widespread non-deposition or erosion. At the same time, extensive fluvial erosion and channel incision take place. Filling of the fluvial channels occurs during rising sea level. Lowstand sediments (if present) are generally landslide deposits laid down on a basal alluvial plain. Uncorrected accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) radiocarbon dates of mollusc shells show that the depositional environment was marine since 6.2 ka, becoming gradually more brackish as a result of progradation of the Pearl River delta. The computed average sedimentation rate for the period 6.2–4.1 ka is 4.4 m/1,000 year, and approximately 1 m/1,000 year since 4.1 ka.

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