Contourite vs gravity-flow deposits of the Faro Drift (Gulf of Cadiz) during the Pleistocene: Sedimentological and mineralogical approaches

Belén Alonso, Gemma Ercilla, David Casas, Dorrik Stow, Francisco J. Rodríguez-Tovar, Javier Dorador, Francisco-Javier Hernández-Molina

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Pleistocene succession at Sites U1386 and U1387 (IODP 339) from palaeo-moat and drift domains of the Faro Drift has been examined to characterize the lithofacies and to identify the most useful criteria for distinguishing between contourite and gravity-flow deposits. Three lithofacies, A, B, and C, are defined based on a combination of sedimentological and mineralogical analyses. The dominant lithofacies A corresponds to contourite deposits; lithofacies B and C comprise turbidites and debrites respectively. Three main criteria have been utilized to distinguish between these deposits: (i) the vertical trend of the grain-size and the sedimentary structures. The contourites show complete sequences (C1 to C5 divisions) and truncate sequences (basecut-out divisions, e.g., C3–C2–C1, and C3). The turbidites display mainly Td–Te divisions, although Tc division is also present to a lesser extent. The debrites display deformational and shearing structures; (ii) the modal frequency distribution. The contourite sequences show similar mode grain-size values in different textures suggesting that the steady conditions of supply are maintained over time. In contrast, turbidite and debrite sequences display different modes, primarily conditioned by mixing of components from allochthonous sources and their downslope gravitational transport; (iii) the sediment composition (clay mineral, bulk mineral and sand fraction) and provenance that reflect long- and short-distance transport modes. Most of the terrigenous components of the contourites come from the Guadalquivir drainage basin, whereas for the turbidites and debrites these are sourced from the neighbouring fluvial drainage basins (Guadiana, Tinto-Odiel). The biogenic components in the latter indicate shallow depositional environments prior to seafloor failure. The spatial and temporal distributions of the lithofacies reflect the different (palaeo) environments of the Faro Drift. Debrite and incomplete turbidite sequences characterize the palaeo-moat domain during the Early Pleistocene. Complete contourite sequences (C1 to C5) and basecut-out sequences (C3–C4–C5, and C3) characterize the proximal palaeo-drift domain during the Early and Middle Pleistocene and the complete contourite sequences represent the distal drift domain during the Late Pleistocene.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)77–94
Number of pages18
JournalMarine Geology
Early online date14 Jan 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2016


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