The first sedimentary record of Holocene sea-level change and tectonic deformation from the Guerrero Gap, Mexican Pacific coast

M.T. Ramirez-Herrera, Andrew Cundy, V. Kostoglodov, A. Carrenza-Edwards, E. Morales, S. Metcalfe

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Studies of the coastal sedimentary record have allowed both the reconstruction of relative sea-level changes and the determination of local rates and magnitudes of tectonic deformation, particularly in tectonically active areas. Despite their Successful use elsewhere, Studies of this type are much less common for the Mexican Pacific coast, which parallels the Cocos-North America subduction plate boundary. Stratigraphic, geochemical and microfossil data from sediments in Laguna Mitla, the Pacific coast of Guerrero, Mexico, document late-Holocene sea-level changes induced by tectonic activity in the Mexican subduction zone. Three major events are identified. First, file formation of the lagoon by c. 4630 yr BP, as indicated by a freshwater to brackish peat. Second, a relative sea-level rise, or land subsidence, as indicated by a shift from a freshwater marginal lagoon environment to a marine setting, preceded by a marine inundation represented by a sand unit (possibly a tsunami deposit), by c. 3400 yr BP. And finally, a return to lagoonal conditions indicating a drop in relative sea level or coastal Uplift by e. 2300 yr BP. The Laguna Mitla stratigraphy indicates general coastal subsidence or relative sea level rise of c. 1 mm/yr. We argue that these relative sea-level (land-level) changes have been induced by tectonic activity associated with the Mexican megathrust. A plausible explanation for the 3400 yr BP marine inundation is probably a tsunami produced by a large seismic event accompanied by coastal subsidence. Discrete fining upward, fine to coarse, sand units with an erosional basal contact, medium to poor sorting, and clay/mud rip-up clasts; all increase in Na and Sr elemental concentrations, indicative of a marine origin; and the landward extent of the sands support a tsunamigenic source for these deposits. However, these apparent tsunami deposits require further Study to determine their lateral extent and to assess whether they call be correlated from one site to another. This study demonstrates the applicability of a multiproxy sedimentary approach in interpreting relative sea-level (land-level) changes and to derive data on related earthquake and tsunami events in tropical coastal lagoons.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1221-1231
    Number of pages11
    Issue number8
    Publication statusPublished - 2007


    • Sea-level change
    • Holocene
    • earthquake
    • tectonic deformation
    • Guerrero Seismic Gap
    • tsunami
    • lagoon sediments
    • Mexico


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