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A comparison of reef-protected environments in ­Western Australia: the central west and Ningaloo coasts

Posted on 02 August 2011

TitleA comparison of reef-protected environments in ­Western Australia: the central west and Ningaloo coasts
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2000
AuthorsSanderson, PG
JournalEarth Surface Processes and Landforms
Date Published04/2000
Keywordsgeology, Ningaloo, other
Abstractariability in the regional setting and morphology of cuspate forelands on the west coast of Western Australia is examined in this paper. In accordance with this aim, principal differences in the geologic and geomorphologic setting of three prominent sites on the west coast were established and their association with historical changes and contemporary oceanographic processes was examined. The cuspate forelands investigated are Jurien Bay, Winderabandi Point and Turquoise Bay. The most significant differences in geologic setting are associated with the structure and location of an extensive offshore reef system. Morphologically, the reef alters from south to north, changing from a discontinuous ridge parallel to the shore along the central west coast, to a nearly continuous fringing reef at Ningaloo. The reefs vary in distance from the shore, being farthest in the south and closest in the north and they impound a series of inshore basins, or lagoons. The deeper southern basins are dominated by locally generated wind waves and wind-generated currents. The shallower northern basins are most markedly affected by tidal currents and wave pumping across the reef flats. The large cuspate foreland at Jurien on the central west coast has undergone shoreline configuration change in response to changing phases of storminess as well as in response to a change in focus for sediment deposition as a result of offshore reef erosion. At Winderabandi Point on the Ningaloo coast, relict Pleistocene limestone has provided the focus for sedimentation and morphology has been controlled by a balance in refracted wave energy and nearshore currents driven by tidal and wave set-up variability. At Turquoise Bay, where the lagoonal basin is most shallow and narrow, the morphology of the foreland suggests that it may at some stage have been migratory, but its present asymmetrical shape is maintained by strong northerly longshore drift and strong currents exiting the lagoon through a nearby gap in the reef crest. Fundamental differences between the two coastal regions include the structure of the offshore reef, processes driving flow of water within the lagoons and the role of storminess in evolution of coastal landforms. Although many questions regarding storm surge dynamics and landform change remain unanswered, this research provides a significant contribution to the understanding of the evolution of morphological systems in low-wave-energy protected environments.
Refereed DesignationRefereed