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The São Francisco strandplain: a paradigm for wave-dominated deltas?
Dominguez, J.M.L. (1996). The São Francisco strandplain: a paradigm for wave-dominated deltas?, in: De Batist, M. et al. (Ed.) Geology of siliciclastic shelf seas. pp. 217-231
In: De Batist, M.; Jacobs, P. (Ed.) (1996). Geology of siliciclastic shelf seas. Geological Society Special Publication, 117. The Geological Society (London): London, UK. ISBN 1-897799-67-5. 345 pp., more
In: Hartley, A.J. et al. (Ed.) Geological Society Special Publication. Geological Society of London: Oxford; London; Edinburgh; Boston, Mass.; Carlton, Vic.. ISSN 0305-8719, more
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    VLIZ: Meteorology and Climatology [9235]


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  • Dominguez, J.M.L.

    The São Francisco 'delta' (total area 800 km2) has been considered for more than two decades as a paradigm for wave-dominated deltas. Although it is frequently cited in the literature, there is a paucity of published data about this sedimentary feature. At the time the modern models of deltaic sedimentation were proposed, many of those deltas receiving modifiers such as 'wave-dominated' and 'tide-dominated' were very poorly understood. Circularity of reasoning did the rest. Inevitably phenomena described for well-studied areas such as the Mississippi River (i.e. dip-feeding and autocyclicity) were uncritically extrapolated to other areas and assumed to be valid for all other members of the so-called delta category . There are three major aspects that make sedimentation in the São Francisco strandplain very different from the classical deltas. (i) Sea-level history for the east coast of Brazil is characterized by a maximum around 5100 years ago when sea level reached 5m above the present level. This sea-level history has exerted a major control on the evolution of the São Francisco Quatemary plain. During the 5.1 ka highstand the coastal plain was drowned and a barrier island/ lagoonal system formed. When sea level dropped afterwards the shoreline prograded and Holocene beach ridges were deposited. As a result, sand body distribution is intimately controlled by sea-level history. (ii) In wave-dominated environments, the fluvial effluent behaves effectively as a groyne, retaining in the updrift side sediments transported shorewise by the longshore currents. This phenomenon creates a clear asymmetry in facies distribution at the Quatemary plain. Whereas the updrift side is characterized by a continuous sand sheet, progradation on the downdrift side occurs by incorporation of sandy islands (reworked river-mouth bar sediments) that extend coastwise, protecting smalllagoons rapidly filled by suspended sediments. This manner of sediment dispersal is also refiected along the entire shoreline and inner shelf in the vicinity of the river mouth. Therefore, the São Francisco 'delta' is not simply a dip-fed system. In the updrift side progradation of the shoreline is accomplished with sediment contribution from outside sources. (iii) Autocyclic processes such as changes in the lower river course (the delta cycle concept) have not been observed for the São Francisco strandplain.

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