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Title: Sediment dynamics and post-glacial evolution of the continental shelf around the Blanes submarine canyon head (NW Mediterranean)
Authors: Duran, Ruth
Canals, Miquel
Lastras, Galderic
Micallef, Aaron
Amblas, David
Pedrosa-Pamies, Rut
Sanz, Jose Luis
Keywords: Sediments (Geology) -- Analysis
Glacial climates
Continental margins -- Mediterranean Sea
Continental shelf -- Mediterranean Sea
Morphology -- Statistical methods
Multibeam mapping
Issue Date: 2013
Publisher: Pergamon Press
Citation: Durán, R., Canals, M., Lastras, G., Micallef, A., Amblas, D., Pedrosa-Pàmies, R., & Sanz, J. L. (2013). Sediment dynamics and post-glacial evolution of the continental shelf around the Blanes submarine canyon head (NW Mediterranean). Progress in Oceanography, 118, 28-46.
Abstract: The Blanes submarine canyon (BC) deeply incises the Catalan continental shelf in the NW Mediterranean Sea. As a consequence of the closeness (only 4 km) of its head to the coastline and the mouth of the Tordera River, the canyon has a direct influence on the shelf dispersal system as it collects large amounts of sediment, mainly during high-energy events. Multibeam bathymetry, backscatter imagery and very-high resolution seismic reflection profiles have allowed characterizing the morphology of the continental shelf around the canyon head, also identifying sediment sources and transport pathways into the canyon. The morphological data have also been used to reconstruct the evolution of the continental shelf during the last sea-level transgression so that the current understanding of shelf-to-canyon sediment exchanges through time could be improved. The continental shelf surrounding the BC consists of both depositional and erosional or non-depositional areas. Depositional areas display prominent sediment bodies, a generally smooth bathymetry and variable backscatter. These include: (i) an area of modern coarse-grained sediment accumulation that comprises the inner shelf; (ii) a modern fine-grained sedimentation area on the middle shelf offshore Tossa de Mar; and (iii) a modern sediment depleted area that covers most of the middle and outer shelf to the west of the canyon head. Erosional and non-depositional areas display a rough topography and high backscatter, and occur primarily to the east of the canyon head, where the arrival of river-fed inputs is very small. In agreement with this pattern, the continental shelf north and west of the canyon head likely is the main source of shelf sediment into the canyon. To the north, a pattern of very high backscatter extends from the coastline to the canyon head, suggesting the remobilization and off-shelf export of fines. Additionally, relict near-shore sand bodies developed over the Barcelona shelf that extend to the canyon head rim constitute a source of coarse sediment. High-energy processes, namely river floods and coastal storms, are the main controls over the river-shelf-canyon sediment exchange. River floods increase the delivery of terrigenous particles to the coastal system. Storms, mainly from the east, remobilize the sediment temporarily accumulated on the shelf towards the canyon head, so that the finer fractions are preferentially removed and a coarse lag is normally left on the shelf floor. Exceptionally, very strong storms also remove the coarse fractions from the shelf drive them into the canyon. Processes like dense shelf water cascading, which is much more intense in canyons to the north of BC, and the Northern Current also contribute to the transport of suspended sediment from far distant northern sources. During the last post-glacial transgression the BC had a strong influence on the evolution of the inner continental margin, as it interrupted the shelf sediment dispersal system by isolating the shelves to its north and south, named La Planassa and Barcelona shelves, respectively.
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