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Friday 16 November 2018 11:36am


Dr Wayne Stephenson (Department of Geography) says a $958,000 Marsden Fund grant for his "Will It Stay or Will It Go?" project means he can start unravelling the relationship between marine terraces formed by earthquakes and coastal erosion.

“The success of this application is a team effort and all the collaborators are thrilled with the result. We are building on a large amount of previous work and taking the unique opportunity presented by the 2016 Kaikōura earthquake. The opportunity Marsden has provided is that we can investigate how earthquakes change coastlines and see how future climate and sea level changes will impact large parts of the New Zealand coast.”

Project Summary: Will It Stay or Will It Go? Determining the relationship between marine terraces formed by earthquakes and coastal erosion

Uplifted marine terraces are coastal landforms widespread globally and used to infer past earthquakes, sea-levels and rates of landscape change. However, interpretations of past earthquakes are controversial because we do not understand the conditions under which uplifted terraces are removed from the landscape. This understanding is vital because the removal (through erosion) of one or more terrace leads to erroneous estimates of past earthquake activity. Our recent fieldwork shows new marine terraces along the Kaikōura–Marlborough coast and on the Kaikōura Peninsula following the November 2016 earthquake. Our extensive data from Kaikōura covers 43 years, providing a baseline from which we can determine the longevity of these new terraces. Currently, understanding of longevity is limited by the lack of a model that includes erosion processes and terrace preservation. Using new advances in dating methods we can identify if terraces have been removed from the landscape. We will develop a multi-factorial framework to establish ‘preservation thresholds’ for marine terraces. Our framework will enable informed predictions of past earthquakes and coastal change and contribute to the global response to sea level rise and climate change impacts on coasts since we will assess how long newly uplifted terraces will last in the landscape.

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