Reconstructing Holocene sea level using salt-marsh foraminifera and transfer functions: Lessons from New Jersey, USA

Andrew C. Kemp, Richard J. Telford, Benjamin P. Horton, Shimon C. Anisfeld, Christopher K. Sommerfield

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


We present an expanded training set of salt-marsh foraminifera for reconstructing Holocene relative sea-level change from 12 sites in New Jersey that represent varied physiographic environments. Seven groups of foraminifera are recognized, including four high- or transitional-marsh assemblages and a low-salinity assemblage. A weighted-averaging transfer function trained on this dataset was applied to a dated core from Barnegat Bay to reconstruct sea level with uncertainties of±14% of tidal range. We evaluate the transfer function using seven tests. (1) Leave-one-site-out cross validation suggests that training sets of salt-marsh foraminifera are robust to spatial autocorrelation caused by sampling along transects. (2) Segment-wise analysis shows that the transfer function performs best at densely sampled elevations and overall estimates of model performance are over optimistic. (3) Dissimilarity and (4) non-metric multi-dimensional scaling evaluated the analogy between modern and core samples. The closest modern analogues for core samples were drawn from six sites demonstrating the necessity of a multi-site training set. (5) Goodness-of-fit statistics assessed the validity of reconstructions. (6) The transfer function failed a test of significance because of the unusual properties of some cores selected for sea-level reconstruction. (7) Agreement between reconstructed sea level and tide-gauge measurements demonstrates the transfer function's utility.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)617-629
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Quaternary Science
Issue number6
StatePublished - Aug 2013
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Palaeontology


  • Analogue matching
  • Barnegat Bay
  • Leave-one-site-out cross validation
  • Partitioning
  • Sea-level indicators
  • Weighted averaging


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