Quaternary Stratigraphy of Whanganui Basin—A Globally Significant Archive

  • Brad PillansEmail author
Part of the Atlantis Advances in Quaternary Science book series (AAQS, volume 3)


Whanganui Basin is a unique global archive—nowhere else in the world is there yet documented a shallow marine basinal sequence, exposed on land, which spans the entire Quaternary. Slow basin subsidence, coupled with glacio-eustatic sea-level fluctuations, has produced a ca. 2 km-thick basin fill of dominantly shallow marine sediments, representing all odd-numbered (high sea-level) marine isotope stages of the last 2.6 Ma. Furthermore, uplift of the basin margins has resulted in a sequence of marine terraces extending back to almost 0.7 Ma. Loess deposits, up to 0.5 Ma in age, overlie the terraces. Pollen and plant phytolith analyses of terrace cover beds yield a paleovegetation and paleoclimatic record spanning much of the last 0.4 Ma. Proximity to the Taupo Volcanic Zone means that the Whanganui Basin contains many rhyolitic tephras for regional correlations and dating. Richly fossiliferous marine sediments also provide the basis for defining the Haweran, Castlecliffian, Nukumaruan and Mangapanian Stages of the New Zealand geological timescale.


Marine Isotope Stage Uplift Rate Marine Terrace Taupo Volcanic Zone Shallow Marine Sediment 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



I would like to pay tribute to the many colleagues and students who have worked with me in Whanganui Basin over more than 40 years. It has been truly a team effort. I also thank David Lowe, Alan Palmer and Alan Beu for their very helpful reviews of the manuscript.

Throughout this chapter I have followed the recommendation of the New Zealand Geographic Board (Ngā Pou Taunaha o Aotearoa) in using the spelling “Whanganui”, rather than ‘Wanganui”.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Research School of Earth SciencesAustralian National UniversityCanberraAustralia

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