Constraining sediment provenance for tsunami deposits using distributions of grain size and foraminifera from the Kujukuri coastline and shelf, Japan

Jessica E. Pilarczyk, Yuki Sawai, Dan Matsumoto, Yuichi Namegaya, Naohisa Nishida, Ken Ikehara, Osamu Fujiwara, Chris Gouramanis, Tina Dura, Benjamin P. Horton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Tsunami deposits preserved in the geological record provide a more comprehensive understanding of their patterns of frequency and intensity over longer timescales; but recognizing tsunami deposits can prove challenging due to post-depositional changes, lack of contrast between the deposits and surrounding sedimentary layers, and differentiating between tsunami and storm deposition. Modern baseline studies address these challenges by providing insight into modern spatial distributions that can be compared with palaeotsunami deposits. This study documents the spatial fingerprint of grain size and foraminifera from Hasunuma Beach and the Kujukuri shelf to provide a basis from which tsunami deposits can be interpreted. At Hasunuma Beach, approximately 50 km east of Tokyo, the spatial distribution of three common proxies (foraminiferal taxonomy, foraminiferal taphonomy and sediment grain size) for tsunami identification were mapped and clustered using Partitioning Around Medoids cluster analysis. Partitioning Around Medoids cluster analysis objectively discriminated two coastal zones corresponding to onshore and offshore sample locations. Results show that onshore samples are characterized by coarser grain sizes (medium to coarse sand) and higher abundances of Pararotalia nipponica (27 to 63%) than offshore samples, which are characterized by finer grain sizes (fine to medium sand), lower abundances of Pararotalia nipponica (2 to 19%) and Ammonia parkinsoniana (0 to 10%), higher abundances of planktonics (15 to 58%) and species with fragile tests including Uvigerinella glabra. When compared to grain-size and foraminiferal taxonomy, foraminiferal taphonomy; i.e. surface condition of foraminifera, a proxy not commonly used to identify tsunami deposits, was most effective in discriminating modern coastal zones (identified supratidal, intertidal and offshore environments) and determining sediment provenance for tsunami deposits at Kujukuri. This modern baseline study assists the interpretation of tsunami deposits in the geological record because it provides a basis for sediment provenance to be determined.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1373-1392
Number of pages20
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 1 2020
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geology
  • Stratigraphy


  • Cluster analysis
  • coastal hazards
  • particle-size distribution
  • taphonomy
  • typhoon

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