Carbonate shelf sediments of the western continental margin of Australia
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Australia's western margin is adjacent to a low–moderate-relief, semi-arid hinterland extending from northern tropical to southern temperate latitudes. Swell waves occur throughout, and cyclonic storms and tidal influences decline from north to south. The margin is influenced by the poleward-flowing, warm, nutrient-poor Leeuwin Current. There is limited upwelling and localized downwelling of saline water on to the shelf. The North West Shelf (NWS) is an ocean-facing ramp with palimpsest sediments – formed during Marine Isoptope Stage (MIS) 3 and 4; stranded ooids and peloids formed early during the post-Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) sea-level rise – and Holocene particles. Changing oceanography during sea-level rise profoundly affected sediment character.The SW Shelf (SWS) comprises the subtropical sediment-starved Carnarvon Ramp in the north and the incipiently rimmed, flat-topped, steep-fronted Rottnest Shelf in the south. The inner Carnarvon Ramp includes the Ningaloo Reef and hypersaline Shark Bay. The mid ramp is relict or stranded foraminifer-dominated sand, and represents attenuated carbonate production due to downwelling incursions of Shark Bay water on to the ramp; the outer ramp is planktic foraminiferal sand or spiculitic mud. Rottnest Shelf has coralline algal-encrusted hardgrounds, larger symbiont-bearing foraminifers with abundant cool-water elements including bryzoans, molluscs and smaller foraminifers. The SWS is transitional between warm- and cool-water carbonate realms.
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