Pliocene-Quaternary contourites along the northern Gulf of Cadiz margin: sedimentary stacking pattern and regional distribution

Estefania Llave, Hugo Matias, F. Javier Hernandez-Molina, Gemma Ercilla, Dorrik A. V. Stow, Teresa Medialdea

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    This study reports novel findings on the Pliocene-Quaternary history of the northern Gulf of Cadiz margin and the spatiotemporal evolution of the associated contourite depositional system. Four major seismic units (P1, P2, QI and QII) were identified in the Pliocene-Quaternary sedimentary record based on multichannel seismic profiles. These are bounded by five major discontinuities which, from older to younger, are the M (Messinian), LPR (lower Pliocene revolution), BQD (base Quaternary discontinuity), MPR (mid-Pleistocene revolution) and the actual seafloor. Unit P1 represents pre-contourite hemipelagic/pelagic deposition along the northern Gulf of Cadiz margin. Unit P2 reflects a significant change in margin sedimentation when contourite deposition started after the Early Pliocene. Mounded elongated and separated drifts were generated during unit QI deposition, accompanied by a general upslope progradation of drifts and the migration of main depocentres towards the north and northwest during both the Pliocene and Quaternary. This progradation became particularly marked during QII deposition after the mid-Pleistocene (MPR). Based on the spatial distribution of the main contourite depocentres and their thickness, three structural zones have been identified: (1) an eastern zone, where NE-SW diapiric ridges have controlled the development of two internal sedimentary basins; (2) a central zone, which shows important direct control by the Guadalquivir Bank in the south and an E-W Miocene palaeorelief structure in the north, both of which have significantly conditioned the basin-infill geometry; and (3) a western zone, affected in the north by the Miocene palaeorelief which favours deposition in the southern part of the basin. Pliocene tectonic activity has been an important factor in controlling slope morphology and, hence, influencing Mediterranean Outflow Water pathways. Since the mid-Pleistocene (MPR), the sedimentary stacking pattern of contourite drifts has been less affected by tectonics and more directly by climatic and sea-level changes.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)377-390
    Number of pages14
    JournalGeo-Marine Letters
    Issue number5-6
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2011


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