Holocene relative sea-level change along the tectonically active Chilean coast

Ed Garrett*, Daniel Melnick, Tina Dura, Marco Cisternas, Lisa L. Ely, Robert L. Wesson, Julius Jara-Muñoz, Pippa L. Whitehouse

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We present a comprehensive relative sea-level (RSL) database for north, central, and south-central Chile (18.5°S – 43.6°S) using a consistent, systematic, and internationally comparable approach. Despite its latitudinal extent, this coastline has received little rigorous or systematic attention and details of its RSL history remain largely unexplored. To address this knowledge gap, we re-evaluate the geological context and age of previously published sea-level indicators, providing 78 index points and 84 marine or terrestrial limiting points spanning from 11 ka to the present day. Many data points were originally collected for research in other fields and have not previously been examined for the information they provide on sea-level change. Additionally, we describe new sea-level data from four sites located between the Gulf of Arauco and Valdivia. By compiling RSL histories for 11 different regions, we summarise current knowledge of Chilean RSL. These histories indicate mid Holocene sea levels above present in all regions, but at highly contrasting elevations from ∼30 m to <5 m. We compare the spatiotemporal distribution of sea-level data points with a suite of glacial isostatic adjustment models and place first-order constraints on the influence of tectonic processes over 103–104 year timescales. While seven regions indicate uplift rates <1 m ka−1, the remaining regions may experience substantially higher rates. In addition to enabling discussion of the factors driving sea-level change, our compilation provides a resource to assist attempts to understand the distribution of archaeological, palaeoclimatic, and palaeoseismic evidence in the coastal zone and highlights directions for future sea-level research in Chile.

Original languageEnglish
Article number106281
JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
Early online date23 Apr 2020
Publication statusPublished - 15 May 2020

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© 2020 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy. Further copying may not be permitted; contact the publisher for details.


  • Data analysis
  • Glacial isostatic adjustment
  • Holocene
  • Sea-level changes
  • Sea-level database
  • South America
  • Tectonics

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