Geological Magazine


Modern carbonate marine-sands in estuaries of southwest England

J. R. Merefielda1

a1 Department of Geology, The University, Exeter, Devon, EX4 4QE


Large deposits of marine-sand occur in the Taw, Camel and Hayle estuaries of north Devon and Cornwall. Total carbonate concentrations reach 67% in the Hayle, 62% in the Camel, and 40% in the Taw. Well mixed, the sands contain modern skeletal debris of consistent composition, which persists up to 18 km and 12 km landward from the mouths of the Taw and Camel estuaries. Although primarily a molluscan sand, remains of barnacles, bryozoans, echinoids, foraminifera, sponge spicules, decapods and coralline algae are common. Carbonate mineralogy provided by these components (on a 100% carbonate basis) consists of 45% aragonite, 38% low Mg-calcite and 17% high Mg-calcite. Two estuaries of the southeast coast of Devon (the Exe and Teign) contain smaller carbonate concentrations of up to 9 and 14%. Values are low there owing to dilution by readily eroded cliff-talus from local exposures of New Red Sandstone. These Permo-Triassic sediments provide carbonate lithoclasts, however, which supplement the modern biogenic supply. Strontium values have been used to estimate the extent of carbonate lithoclasts supplied to the Exe and Teign. The present source of marine-sand of estuaries in southwest England is considered to be mostly near-shore detritus supplemented by eroded cliff-talus, derived largely from local outcrops. Once this material enters the estuarine regime it is available as a supply of sediment for further up-estuary transport.