Distinctive diatom assemblages may be associated with tsunami sediments and may often contrast with the assemblages found within sediments underlying the tsunami deposit as well as those associated with the modern coastal environment. Sediments associated with the 1998 tsunami that destroyed much of the Sissano lagoon area in northern Papua New Guinea have been investigated. Surface sediments from three transects across the sediment spit near Warapu have been examined for diatom content and preservation. The preservation is variable, and the data show an, often chaotic, assemblage that can be attributed to the tsunami waves incorporating and depositing diatoms from distinctive habitat zones during their runup and subsequent backwash. The diatoms identified within the Warapu sediments indicate an origin from within the inter-tidal and offshore area rather than from the beach–sand spit complex. The sand deposits disclose a high percentage, in excess of 75%, of broken diatom valves, and a predominance of centric (circular) species due to preferential preservation. The study demonstrates that the application of diatom biostratigraphy to modern tsunami deposits can be used in conjunction with other stratigraphical lines of evidence to interpret the source and provenance of historical and palaeo-tsunami deposits.
- Papua New Guinea
- Coastal sedimentation