The Quaternary Contourite Log-book: a deep-water record(er) of variability in paleoclimate, paleoceanography and deep-water ecosystems

Contourites are sediments deposited or significantly affected by bottom currents near continental margins. Although poorly known economically as well as for the large public and scientific community, contourite deposits are observed all over the Earth’s continental margin and are of importance in a wide range of processes. They have fundamental roles in the construction and evolution of continental margins worldwide, in providing a key link to our understanding of the ocean-climate nexus, and in influencing the global environment and deep-ocean ecosystems. Their study has been one of the most active lines in marine geoscience research over the last decade, often necessitating a truly interdisciplinary approach that encompasses sedimentology, stratigraphy, biogeochemistry, paleoceanography and paleoclimatology.

In order to maximise the efforts and outcome from the recent International Ocean Drilling Programmes IODP 317, IODP 318 and IODP 339, which all focus on contourites, the International Union for Quaternary Research (INQUA) has granted project INQUA 1204P: "The Quaternary Contourite Log-book". This project will run parallel with IGCP 619 "Contourites: processes & products". While the IGCP project will focus on all aspects of contourite systems over the entire geological time scale, the INQUA project places specific emphasis on the driving forces and resulting processes during the Quaternary. It will gain the highest possible time scale and focus on 4 major themes:

  • temporally and spatially variable sediment processes related to drift development
  • the prominent contourite cyclicity, both observed on geophysical sections as in cores,
  • the variability of water masses and their related physical and chemical characteristics
  • deep-water circulation plays an important role as "caretaker" of deep-water ecosystems, controlling their initiation, rise and demise.

INQUA 1204P "The Quaternary Contourite Log-book" will be fully complementary to IGCP 619 "Contourites: processes & products" and will unite numerous doctoral young and post-doctoral early carrier scientists, among which many from developing and newly developed nations. The programme will run from 2012 to 2015 and is funded by the International Union for Quaternary Research (INQUA) of the International Council for Science (ICS).