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Middle-Late Pleistocene polycyclic evolution of a stable coastal area (southern Apulia, Italy)

Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/j.geomorph.2006.09.014
  • Sea Caves
  • Sea Level Change
  • Polycyclic Landforms
  • U/Th Age
  • Earth Science


Abstract The Otranto–Leuca coastal tract is marked by the presence of numerous sea caves placed close to present sea level. They are located generally at the back of a shore platform covered by a sequence of breccia deposits, marine sediments and speleothems. At Grotta di Masseria dell'Orte, marine cemented sands rest on a narrow shore platform at about 6.2 m above mean sea level and are covered by speleothems older than 185 ka. At Grotta del Diavolo, which is mostly filled by breccia deposits, three beach levels have been detected at about 3.0, 3.5 and 5.9 m above msl. They are either covered by or overlie speleothems that yield an U/Th age of 340, 78 ka and between 170.3 and 146.5, respectively. Geomorphological evidence and radiometric ages indicate that the area after a period of uplift has been tectonically stable since the last part of the Middle Pleistocene so that marine landforms close to the present shoreline underwent a polycyclic evolution. The sedimentary fills of sea caves formed during Middle-Late Pleistocene glacial stages, when arid or semiarid conditions promoted the removal of regolith and the development of thick breccia deposits. During Marine Isotope Stages (MIS) 9.3, 5.5 and 5.1, cave sediments were partially eroded whereas beach layers and related speleothems developed. These are, in fact, the only marine isotope stages marked by a sea level position which in this Mediterranean region was either close to, or slightly higher than, the present one.

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