A sedimentary model for hooked spit depositional systems based on ground-penetrating radar and sedimentological data is presented. The recurved main spit of Sylt Island (southern North Sea) is dominated by migrating sand dunes; the investigated hooked spit exhibits a system of foredune ridges, oriented perpendicular to the dunes of the recurved spit. The development of the hooked spit is related closely to the presence of an adjacent tidal inlet, where strong tidal currents and a steep bathymetry prevent a further northward progradation of the main spit and trigger a deflection from northerly-directed to easterly-directed net sediment transport. Ground-penetrating radar data and shallow sediment cores reveal the sedimentary architecture of the hooked spit in high resolution and allow the proposition of a genetic stratigraphic model. It is shown that the growth of the hooked spit is controlled by the interplay of alongshore migrating foreshore beach drifts under fair-weather conditions and strong erosional events, interpreted as the result of rare severe storms. These storms may excavate scarps in the backshore, which play an important role in the development of foredune ridges. Accelerator mass spectrometry 14C ages indicate an absolute age of at least 1300 years for the hooked spit, which possibly correlates with strengthened erosion of the main spit. In contrast to the main spit, where the sediment budget is negative nowadays, growth of the hooked spit beach accelerated significantly during the last decades. This effect can probably be attributed to enhanced beach-nourishments updrift along the main spit and makes the investigated hooked spit a natural laboratory to study the influence of increasing sediment supply into a system developing under the conditions of sea-level rise. The study shows that the same external forces lead to distinct progradational processes along one barrier-spit system.
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