Lacustrine wave-dominated clastic shorelines: modern to ancient littoral landforms and deposits from the Lake Turkana Basin (East African Rift System, Kenya)

Original paper


This paper presents an overview of some of the most significant, recent to ancient, littoral morpho-sedimentary structures and deposits from the Lake Turkana Basin. We highlight the importance of wave-related sedimentary processes in lakes, and more specifically in rift lakes. In the published literature, references to wave-dominated shorelines are mainly in regards to coastal marine environments. However, numerous modern lakes exhibit typical wave-dominated littoral landforms, and related sedimentary deposits are known from several paleolake successions in the geological record. Wave-related processes are often of relatively minor importance in depositional models for lacustrine environments. Classical models emphasize clastics transported by rivers, which are then distributed by fan-deltas and/or deltas into a water body of fluctuating depth, where reworking of clastics is limited in the littoral domain, and episodic in deep waters. Modern processes in Lake Turkana and the exposed paleolake deposits of the Turkana Basin demonstrate that this view is incomplete. Wave-dominated shorelines are evident (1) for modern Lake Turkana based on prominent and active littoral landforms (e.g., beach ridges, sand spits, washover fans, and arcuate-cuspate deltas); (2) for the Holocene (African Humid Period) climate-driven highstand of Megalake Turkana and its subsequent forced regression based on conspicuous raised beach ridges and spits; and (3) for the Pliocene–Pleistocene (Omo Group, Nachukui Formation) from typical nearshore sedimentary facies and stratigraphic architectures associated with paleolake Turkana. These examples from the Turkana Basin coupled with examples from other lacustrine settings, suggest that wave-dominated clastic shorelines represent significant portions of existing and ancient lake-shores. As this view contrasts with classic depositional models for lakes, notably for those found in rift setting, we also present examples of wave-influenced littoral landforms from other lakes of the East African Rift System. Identifying lacustrine paleoshorelines from typical clastic landforms and deposits is the key to the spatial reconstruction of lakes over time, and to determine transgressive–regressive cycles. Waves action is an important agent in lakes for the erosion, transport, and deposition of clastics at the basin-scale, an aspect that needs to be integrated in sedimentary models.


Beach ridges Spits Nearshore Washover fan Lake margins 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.CNRS, Institut de Physique du Globe de Strasbourg, UMR 7516Université de StrasbourgStrasbourgFrance
  2. 2.Department of GeoscienceAarhus UniversityAarhusDenmark

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