Late-Holocene (post-4000 years BP) coastal dune development in Northumberland, northeast England

Peter Wilson, Julian D. Orford, Jasper Knight, Sharon M. Braley, Ann G. Wintle

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The recent environmental history of coastal dune systems in Northumberland, northeast England, has been examined using geomorphological, stratigraphical and sedimentological techniques linked to radiocarbon and infrared-stimulated luminescence (IRSL) dating. Stratigraphies were determined from 22 vibracores and three sections, and dune chronology was based on 28 C-14 dates, from pear and soil organic horizons, and 26 IRSL dates on K-feldspar grains from within sand layers. Almost all dune systems are associated with regressive shorelines consequent upon a fall in relative sea level (RSL) from its Holocene peak, and indicate RSL functioned as a macroscale control on dune development. Where dunes are anchored on terrestrial sediment, dune expansion may have been either transgressive or regressive in nature. Where near-shore marine sediments form the dune substrate, a regressive (prograding) dune model seems most likely. Most dune building occurred during the 'Little Ice Age' (LIA), probably in association with specific climatic and morphosedimentary conditions, principally periods of easterly circulation, a greater frequency of severe North Sea storms, RSL fall, and sediment and accommodation space availability. Dune development in Holocene cool intervals earlier than the LIA was of limited spatial extent, suggesting some differences in prevailing conditions at those times.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)215-229
Number of pages15
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2001


  • coastal sand dunes
  • radiocarbon dating
  • IRSL dating
  • relative sea-level change
  • climatic change
  • 'Little Ice Age'
  • late Holocene
  • Northumberland


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