Coastal influences

Along much of the coast, rivers export terrigenous sediments to inshore seas. After heavy rainfall, turbid flood plumes carry suspended solids and nutrients along the coastline and into the GBR Lagoon. Over the last 8000 years, this has resulted in a ~15 km wide inshore deposit of muddy sediments, the Holocene Wedge, particularly between 12-21°S. Elsewhere, the inshore sediments are largely silica sands—especially at the southern end, where the shelf is extensively covered by silica sands from the Great Sandy Region further south.

On exposed coasts, wave action from trade winds regularly turns over the sediments to depths of 20 m, creating unstable habitat and redistributing finer particles to less exposed areas. Cyclones are particularly frequent in the open central GBR, and their disturbing effects reach much greater depths, transporting fine particles north and inshore, leaving behind a thin veneer of coarse particles over much of the shelf in this region.

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