Contourite systems around the northern exit from the Vema Channel

Elena V. Ivanova, Dmitrii G. Borisov, Ivar O. Murdmaa, Ekaterina A. Ovsepyan, Dorrik Stow

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3 Citations (Scopus)


Several drifts of different types and sizes are identified near the northern exit of the Vema Channel, within the projects Neogene-Quaternary contourites of the Central and South Atlantic and Lateral sedimentation in the deep ocean (on the examples from the Central and South-Western Atlantic). Herein, we discuss new results of a multidisciplinary study of sixteen sediment cores and high-resolution sub-bottom (seismoacoustic) profiles, to address the impact of Lower Circumpolar Deep Water (LCDW) and Antarctic Bottom Water (AABW) passing through the Vema gateway on contourite accumulation and erosion. To the west of the northern exit from the Vema Channel, an anticyclonic gyre of LCDW is instrumental in the development of contourite drifts and sediment waves. The contourite origin of generally silty terrigenous sediments in the Santa Catarina Plateau – São Paulo Plateau area is ascertained by both morpho-seismic and sedimentary characteristics. Sedimentary features include: a lack of primary sedimentary structures and pervasive bioturbation; sharp erosional contacts, local hiatuses and stiff mud horizons; some sandy/silty layers and indistinct bedding; mostly fine grain-size, very poor sorting and distinctive bi-gradational sequences; a high degree of correlation between the content of sortable silt (SS) in the total < 63 μm size fraction and SS mean sizes in all eight cores studied. Biostratigraphy, oxygen isotope records and ten new accelerator mass-spectrometry (AMS) 14C dates reveal the mid to late Quaternary age of this mainly terrigenous contourite depositional system (CDS).

By contrast, the dominantly calcareous Ioffe Drift, overlying the Florianopolis Fracture Zone (FFZ) ridge to the northeast of the Vema Channel, is far from any source of terrigenous material, and accumulated in an area of low biological productivity. The overall asymmetric geometry, mainly lenticular, upward-convex seismic units separated by erosional unconformities, reflection truncation, small-scale moats dissecting the drift surface collectively indicate its contourite origin. The interpretation of the drift as the CDS is supported by sediment characteristics including common hiatuses corresponding in some cases to erosional contacts, pervasive bioturbation, generally poor sediment sorting, and more or less well-developed bi-gradational sequences. The erosion and deposition in the drift area are mostly controlled by the main LCDW branch following northeastward along the FFZ. Extensive erosion by bottom currents has created numerous hiatuses and markedly reduced the thickness of drift's sediments. The stratigraphic record from the Ioffe Drift sediment cores reveals an Upper Pliocene – Quaternary succession. The results of detailed analyses of six cores from the Ioffe Drift area, compared with two cores and the upper part of DSDP Site 516 from the Rio Grande Rise, notably the use of a SS analogue, provide new information on calcareous biogenic contourites deposited in the pelagic realm of the South Atlantic.
Original languageEnglish
Article number106835
JournalMarine Geology
Early online date24 May 2022
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2022


  • Abyssal channel
  • Bottom currents
  • Gateway
  • Hiatuses
  • Ioffe Drift
  • LCDW and AABW
  • Santa Catarina Plateau
  • Sedimentation
  • São Paulo Plateau

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Geology
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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