Sediment composition, provenance, and Holocene paleoenvironmental evolution of the Southern Po River coastal plain (Italy)

Abstract

Geochemistry, sediment provenance, and the Holocene paleoenvironmental evolution of the Southern Po River coastal plain (Italy) were examined based on the geochemical analysis of 279 sediment samples from 35 cores. The Holocene succession is subdivided into four major facies associations: back-barrier, transgressive barrier, shallow-marine, and beach-ridge deposits. Bulk chemical composition shows remarkable differences between facies associations, and the poly-modal behavior in the related frequency curves suggests distinct sources of sediment. Using MgO and Ni as geochemical tracers, changes in sediment provenance were assessed with the aim to reconstruct the Holocene paleoenvironmental evolution of the area. The Po River and the Apenninic rivers represented the main sources of sediment during the early stages of transgression and highstand sea-level conditions, whereas transgressive barrier and early shallow-marine facies associations exhibit a clear North Adriatic river (eastern Alpine) provenance. The Holocene paleoenvironmental evolution of the study area, between about 10 ky and the present, indicates the presence of a bypass zone in front of the Po River mouth between 9 and 6 ky BP. At that time, sediment supplied by the North Adriatic rivers was transported southward by the longshore drift, bypassed the weak Po River influx and accumulated close to the Apennines. Comparison between Holocene facies associations and current back-barrier and shallow-marine sediments confirms that the present-day basin circulation is similar to the one that acted during the last episode of sea-level rise.

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