Stewart, I. and Vita-Finzi, C. (eds.)
Geological Society, London, 1998
Available from Amazon
This book evolved from a conference on ‘Late Quaternary Coastal Tectonics.’ It was decided however, that Late Qua-ternary was too specific, and so the ‘Late Quaternary’ was dropped. This volume contains 21 papers, not all of which were presented at the conference. As well as the papers it contains a brief one page preface and a comprehensive index. When first looking at this book, the reader is struck by the colorful cover, with the standard Geological Society ‘stripe’ (in this case a fetching mustard color, with blue back ground). The blurb on the back states that the data within comes from a variety of disciplines, basically anything with earth science relevance, going on to explain that this book comprises an international review as coastal tectonics is transforming “from a descriptive historical branch of earth science into a predictive tool addressing real social needs.” This impressed me, recalling the presidential address from Brunsden to the International Association of Geomorphologists (Brundsen, 1996) where he commented on the responsibility of geomorphology to society. The following sentence then highlights the intended audience: academics (Tectonics & Quaternary) and “professionals involved in seismic hazard or coastal development/protection.” This second category initially prompted this reader’s interest in the text, through a primary interest in this applied and management related field, with a background in Quaternary and coastal geomorphology.
From a stylistic perspective the first page I studied was the contents page. Here I was disappointed, it is far too cluttered, the font is too small, the authors’ names and the title of the chapters are on the same lines and there is no use of bold or italics, although the authors’ names are in capitals. I would have preferred to have seen the names on one line, and the chapter title below. The result is a contents page which is not easy to use. This has obviously been done to condense it onto one page, an idea with which I sympathize, but I would rather have a clearer list of contents split over two facing pages than one which is cluttered and unclear. The contents page would also benefit from more space between the chapters. I was also rather disappointed with the preface. Again it has been squeezed down onto one page. It would benefit from a more in depth attempt to link the papers. They do note that a range of topics are considered: extraction of tectonic data through noise; earthquake sequence reconstruction; dating methods; use of historical records; and some of the more persistent geodynamic problems are highlighted. In a specialist volume like this it may be argued that an introductory chapter is unnecessary, but I believe a brief chapter outlining the subject of coastal tectonics and giving an expanded rationale for the book and conference would have strengthened this volume. However, the reader is referred to “Lajoie (1986)” which may reduce the need for such a chapter, but they do not give a reference, a minor but unfortunate oversight. Having said all that, the index (which can be as important as the contents page) is comprehensive and accurate.
Turning to some of the individual chapters. Peltier’s paper is interesting and informative with adequate descriptions of procedures used where the space is available. It is also comprehensively referenced and makes a very good first paper to ‘set the scene’ for the rest of the volume. As this is the first paper, it is liable to be the first viewed by the prospective purchaser/user. The illustrations are excellent and the use of color is useful and required. Visually this paper will appeal to the purchaser as it is well written and aesthetically pleasing. It also has the lions’ share of the mathematics in this volume, which would be off-putting to some coastal managers. This paper extends as well as reviews the literature on the global theory of postglacial sea level exchange which has developed over the past two decades. The second paper (by Chappell et al.) considers delta tectonics and uses historical documentation to estimate potential changes over time. It raises questions concerning delta sedimentation and time-scales.
Trecker et al. use ‘wave cut platform’ frequently (as a number of other authors do throughout this volume), this is unfortunate as ‘shore platform’ has been seen as amore accurate label recently (a minor quibble). Apart from that they have produced an interesting paper which uses oxygen isotopes from Olivella biplicata (a gastropod) as “a means for gaining a higher resolution record of uplift rates.” Their technique also shows a better understanding of uplift style. The detail relating to the choice of Olivella biplkata is also noted. It shows that this species is locally abundant, has a lifespan of 8—15 years and grows continually throughout the year. Therefore they do not need to worry about seasonal effects on El Niño influences. This illustrates a competent level of re search into the local species and their characteristics, before the choice was made. This level of detail is to be commended; many would assume this should be taken as read, but such comments help students (and others) to consider reasons for careful species choice other than local abundance. Another paper strong on methodology is that by Foulger and Hofton, who have produced an interesting paper on regional vertical movements in Iceland. They highlight errors, interference and other problems with the use of GPS for any study where the accuracy of horizontal and vertical data is essential. This paper is worth reading if you are considering working with GPS for accurate positioning data as well as for the tectonic movements in Iceland.
Bordoni and Valensise present a paper regarding the deformation of an Italian marine terrace. Again, the paper is useful and informative, but it has a table detailing 121 locations which spans pages 74-89. Although the data is useful, having to flick from page 73 to 90 to finish a sentence does interrupt the reading. The table might have been better placed at the end of the text as an appendix. The maps are black and white, and would have benefited from a small amount of color as some of the lettering is over dark shading, making the text difficult to read (this is particularly bad on figure 3). Having said that the text benefits from the use of the maps.
Flemming seeks to prove archaeological evidence can allow the identification of previous relative sea levels to an accuracy of 20—50 cm. Table one has a useful record of all known submarine human occupation sites globally that is well referenced for each country and provides a very useful data source in itself. This is a fascinating paper outlining the role of archaeology in relative sea level and tectonic history re construction. It is very well written and exceptionally well referenced. In another archaeologically based paper Galili and Sharvit use rock cut installations to identify tectonic movement in Israel. A review of rock cut installations takes place from north to south, concluding that the Israeli coast has been tectonically stable over the last 2500 years. Their diagrams are clear, effective and relevant. The paper concludes with closing comments for coastal planners and decision makers on the effects and causes of marine erosion and differential settlement and the implications for the noted archaeological sites.
The paper by Orme considers Californian coastal tectonics. Text is clear with excellent pictures illustrating the landscape of relative sea level change. Figure 5 is a particularly good example showing relict sea stacks, sea cliffs and shore platforms. Murray-Wallace et al. describe a section of Australian coastal plain at the boundary between South Australia and Victoria. “This site is one of few sites where 800ka of on-land Quaternary sea level highstands can be delineated unambiguously by morphostratigraphy.” This is a fascinating paper of an outstanding field site.
Bezerra et al. make the point, often overlooked by those of us working in previously glaciated regions, that non-glaciated regions have also undergone tectonic movements related to glaciation: as water is reintroduced to the oceans, their bot toms subside, displacing the material below to underneath the adjacent coastal areas, their example being Brazil. They compare global sea level graphs with the observed field evidence and dating. The only real complaint concerning this paper is the lack of field site names noted on the location map (Figure 1). It should carry more of the names noted in the text: as it stands the reader is left wondering where some of the locations are which is unfortunate and weakens an otherwise strong paper.
McNeill et al. consider coseismic strain release briefly. This concept should be of interest to coastal managers, decision makers and natural hazard assessors in relevant locations around the globe. Goff et al. have produced an interesting paper considering potential tsunami deposits in New Zealand. Table 1 is a particularly useful research tool. It lists diagnostic characteristics of tsunami deposits. These range from obvious sources to some of the more obscure and appear comprehensive, generally referencing at least two sources for each diagnostic characteristic.
In an interesting, well written paper, Domney-Howes et al. note that in Falasarna (western Crete), sedimentological and morphological investigation evidence give opposing sea level histories (one showing subsidence, the other uplift). This highlights the need to back up studies with both morphological and sedimentological evidence, to avoid misinterpretation.
This book will be of great use to academics: although it is well written, I do not believe it is effective in presenting in formation to coastal development and protection professionals, which is disappointing given the blurb. A paper summarizing the important applied concepts from the this volume would probably be more useful to coastal developers, planners and managers. There is no doubt that coastal actors should be aware of the tectonic setting of their coast before taking decisions. However, this is not the book to educate them unless they already have a good grasp of coastal geomorphology and understand tectonics. Only a handful of papers note coastal management issues (Galili and Sharvit and McNeill et al., being the most pertinent). The rates of relative sea level movement presented (and the way they are presented in particular) will not interest coastal developers. It is often difficult to get coastal developers to consider anything beyond the next Spring tide, let alone rates of tectonic induced relative sea level change in the region of 1—5mm/yr. The editors and publishers may wish coastal protection officers to purchase the book, but I do not envisage many purchasing a text which will be too advanced and academic for their needs. Overall, this is an exceptionally well written text, each chapter is interesting and a useful contribution to coastal tectonics as a science. It would make an excellent addition to any reference library or academic bookshelf where there is an interest in tectonics or coastal evolution.
Derek J. McGlashan
Graduate School of Environmental Studies
University of Strathclyde
Glasgow, G4 ONW, UK