Peatlands in eastern Australia? Sedimentology and age structure of Temperate Highland Peat Swamps on Sandstone (THPSS) in the Southern Highlands and Blue Mountains of NSW, Australia

Kirstie Fryirs*, Benjamin Freidman, Rory Williams, Geraldine Jacobsen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

24 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Temperate Highland Peat Swamps on Sandstone (THPSS) are a form of topogenous mire found on the plateau areas of eastern Australia. They are well recognised for their ecological value, but our understanding of their geomorphic structure, function and evolution remains limited. Across 19 sites, the valley fills of THPSS comprise sequences of mineral-rich sand and loam deposits. Basal sand and gravel sediments have low organic content and low carbon to nitrogen (C:N) ratios (a measure of peat formation) and are dated between 15.3 and 9 kyr cal. BP, with outliers back to 44 kyr cal. BP. These units reflect mineral-sediment trapping and accumulation on the valley floor. The transition to ‘swamp’ conditions through paludification occurred between 15.2 and 10.3 kyr cal. BP in some systems, and between 7.6 and 1.4 kyr cal. BP in other, adjacent valleys. These ‘swamp’ sediments comprise a package of units, progressing upward from fine cohesive sands, through assemblages of alternating organic sands to surface organic fines. These beds vary in texture from loams to sands and have a range of organic matter content (from 7.6% to 79.9%) and C:N ratios (from 15 to 58). The surface organic fines at 0 and 100 cm depth range in age from 13.1 to 0.7 kyr cal. BP. The composition and age structure of the valley fill suggest a mix of allogenic and autogenic controls are responsible for the formation of these swamps, but a regional model of THPSS evolution is emerging. Given these ‘peatlands’ have formed under a climate that experiences significant inter-annual variability in rainfall, conditions for peat formation are localised and not directly equivalent to those documented internationally.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1527-1538
Number of pages12
JournalHolocene
Volume24
Issue number11
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 27 Nov 2014

Keywords

  • Holocene
  • eastern Australia
  • peat formation
  • peatland
  • swamp sedimentology
  • upland swamp evolution

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