Holocene fluvial depositional regimes of the Huab River, Skeleton Coast, Namibia

Walsh E, Caracciolo L, Ravidà D, Burrough S, Thomas D (2022)

Publication Type: Journal article

Publication year: 2022


DOI: 10.1002/esp.5349


Dryland fluvial systems respond to hydroclimate changes on Quaternary timescales, yet deciphering the palaeoenvironmental histories they preserve is often complex. Whilst hydrological signals are preserved in sediment stores as variations in sediment amount, character, and composition, studies in dryland settings such as Namibia that link sedimentological and compositional changes to palaeoflow are limited. Focusing on the Huab River, Skeleton Coast, this paper presents the first integrated study of textural, compositional, and stratigraphic features from a Namibian fluvial archive. Petrographic and heavy mineral assemblages from Raman laser spectroscopy are combined with lithostratigraphic and particle size analysis. Together with a chronology established through 42 optically stimulated luminescence ages, we reconstruct provenance, changes in river style, and fluvial response to climate. The Huab lithostratigraphic record details periods of flashy ephemeral flow interbedded with flow within well-defined channels. Compositional assemblages indicate that humid conditions during the early to mid-Holocene resulted in activation of sediment stores across the catchment. Episodic discharge within an ephemeral river from 12 to 9 ka was followed by a more sustained river flow in a channelized system from 7 to 5 ka. During the late Holocene, better hydraulic sorting, increased mechanical breakdown of polycrystalline grains, and flash flood lithofacies suggest that flow occurred within a more arid climate. This fine-scaled analysis of an ephemeral fluvial system indicates the utility of assessing compositional changes to distinguish between depositional regimes. This is an important approach for reconstructing fluvial response to climate and for obtaining palaeoenvironmental records from complex sedimentary archives in dryland river settings.

Authors with CRIS profile

Involved external institutions

How to cite


Walsh, E., Caracciolo, L., Ravidà, D., Burrough, S., & Thomas, D. (2022). Holocene fluvial depositional regimes of the Huab River, Skeleton Coast, Namibia. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms. https://doi.org/10.1002/esp.5349


Walsh, Ella, et al. "Holocene fluvial depositional regimes of the Huab River, Skeleton Coast, Namibia." Earth Surface Processes and Landforms (2022).

BibTeX: Download