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Mediterranean shelf-edge muddy contourites: examples from the Gela and South Adriatic basins
Verdicchio, G.; Trincardi, F. (2007). Mediterranean shelf-edge muddy contourites: examples from the Gela and South Adriatic basins. Geo-Mar. Lett. 28(3): 137-151.
In: Geo-Marine Letters. Springer: Heidelberg; Berlin. ISSN 0276-0460; e-ISSN 1432-1157, more
Peer reviewed article  

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Author keywords
    Shelf Edge; Depositional Unit; Slide Scar; Sediment Drift

Authors  Top 
  • Verdicchio, G.
  • Trincardi, F.

    We present new evidence of shallow-water muddy contourite drifts at two distinct locations in the central Mediterranean characterized by a relatively deep shelf edge (between 170 and 300 m below sea level): the south-eastern Adriatic margin and the north-western Sicily Channel. The growth of these shelf-edge contourite drifts is ascribed to the long-term impact of the Mediterranean themohaline circulation. The Levantine Intermediate Water flows continuously, with annual or inter-annual variations, and affects the shelf edge and the upper slope in both study areas. In addition, the SW Adriatic margin is impinged by the seasonally modulated off-shelf cascading of North Adriatic Dense Water. This water mass has formed ever since the large Adriatic continental shelf was drowned by the post-glacial sea-level rise. It energetically sweeps the entire slope from the shelf edge to the deep basin. These bottom currents flow parallel or oblique to the depth contours, and are laterally constricted along markedly erosional moats aligned parallel to the shelf edge where they increase in flow velocity. The internal geometry and growth patterns of the shelf-edge contourites reflect changes in oceanographic setting affecting the whole Mediterranean Sea. In particular, seismic correlation with published sediment cores documents that these deposits are actively growing and migrating during the present interglacial, implying an enhancement in bottom-water formation during intervals of relative sea-level rise and highstand. Regardless of the specific mechanisms of formation, sediment drifts in both study areas have been affected by widespread thin-skinned mass-wasting events during post-glacial times. Repeated mass-transport processes have affected in particular the downslope flank of the shelf-edge contourite drifts, indicating that these muddy deposits are prone to failure during, or soon after, their deposition.

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