Structure and chronology of a star dune at Erg Chebbi, Morocco, reveals why star dunes are rarely recognised in the rock record

C. S. Bristow*, G. A.T. Duller

*Corresponding author for this work

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Abstract

Star dunes are the tallest dunes on Earth and are amongst the larger and more spectacular aeolian landforms. Although they are widespread in modern sandy deserts, star dunes are rarely recognised in the rock record probably due to a lack of suitable sedimentary models. This paper presents a new sedimentary model for the structure of a star dune at Erg Chebbi in Morocco (Sahara Desert) on the basis of ground-penetrating radar (GPR) surveys. Individual sedimentary structures in star dunes are similar to those in linear or barchanoid dunes, likely leading to misidentification in the rock record. However, the suite of features described in this paper will permit identification of star dunes in future studies of the rock record. Optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) dating shows that accumulation of the Erg Chebbi star dune post-dates the end of the African Humid Period (AHP). At the base of the dune, there is an ~ 8000-year hiatus in the record. Since then, the dune has grown rapidly to create a 100 m high dune within the past 1000 years and is migrating towards the west. Changes in the cross-strata support the idea that star dune construction was accompanied by a change in the wind directions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4464
Number of pages8
JournalScientific Reports
Volume14
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 04 Mar 2024

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