15 Oct 2020

15 Oct 2020

Review status: a revised version of this preprint is currently under review for the journal ESSD.

The last interglacial sea-level record of New Zealand (Aotearoa)

Deirdre D. Ryan1, Alastair J. H. Clement2, Nathan R. Jankowski3,4, and Paolo Stocchi5 Deirdre D. Ryan et al.
  • 1MARUM – Center for Marine Environmental Sciences, University of Bremen, Bremen, Germany
  • 2School of Agriculture and Environment, Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand
  • 3Centre for Archeological Science, School of Earth, Atmospheric and Life Sciences, University of Wollongong, Wollongong, Australia
  • 4Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage, University of Wollongong, Wollongong, Australia
  • 5NIOZ, Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research, Coastal Systems Department, and Utrecht University, PO Box 59 1790 AB Den Burg (Texel), The Netherlands

Abstract. This paper presents the current state-of-knowledge of the New Zealand (Aotearoa) last interglacial (MIS 5 sensu lato) sea-level record compiled within the framework of the World Atlas of Last Interglacial Shorelines (WALIS) database. Seventy-seven total relative sea-level (RSL) indicators (direct, marine-, and terrestrial-limiting points), commonly in association with marine terraces, were identified from over 120 studies reviewed. Extensive coastal deformation around New Zealand has resulted in a significant range of elevation measurements on both the North Island (276.8 to −94.2 msl) and South Island (173.1 to −70.0 msl) and prompted the use of RSL indicators to estimate rates of vertical land movement; however, indicators lack adequate description and age constraint. Identified RSL indicators are correlated with MIS 5, MIS 5e, MIS 5c, and MIS 5a and indicate the potential for the New Zealand sea-level record to inform sea-level fluctuation and climatic change within MIS 5 (sensu lato). The Northland (North Island) and Otago (South Island) regions, historically considered stable, have the potential to provide a regional sea-level curve in a remote location of the South Pacific across broad degrees of latitude. Future work requires modern analogue information, heights above a defined sea-level datum, better stratigraphic descriptions, and use of improved geochronological methods.

The database presented in this study is available open-access at this link: (Ryan et al., 2020a).

Deirdre D. Ryan et al.

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Deirdre D. Ryan et al.

Data sets

The last interglacial sea-level record of New Zealand (Aotearoa) - WALIS database of sea-level indicators Ryan, Deirdre D.; Clement, Alastair, J.H.; Jankowski, Nathan R.; Stocchi, Paolo; Rovere, Alessio

Deirdre D. Ryan et al.


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Short summary
Studies of ancient sea level and coastlines help scientists understand how coasts will respond to future sea-level rise. This work standardized the published records of sea level around New Zealand correlated with sea-level peaks within the Last Interglacial (~128,000–73,000 years ago) using the World Atlas of Last Interglacial Shorelines (WALIS) database. The record suffers from poor descriptions and age constraint, but has potential to provide an important record of sea level in future.