Recognizing key sedimentary facies and their distribution in mixed turbidite–contourite depositional systems: The case of the Pacific margin of the Antarctic Peninsula

Interplay of deep-water sedimentary processes is responsible for building a myriad of features and deposits across mixed turbidite–contourite systems, from 200 km long sedimentary drifts. Investigations of the spatial and temporal variability of their sedimentary facies and facies associations is crucial to reveal the dynamics between along-slope bottom currents and down-slope turbidity currents, as well as their impact on drift construction and channel erosion. This study focuses on extensive modern mixed (turbidite–contourite) systems, developed across the continental rise of the Pacific margin of the Antarctic Peninsula. Nine sediment cores were sampled and analysed, through grain size and geochemical methods, to study the sedimentary facies at high-resolution (ca. 1 to 20 cm). Three main facies associations have been identified across distinct morphological features (i.e. mounded drifts and trunk channels), comprising intercalations of hemipelagites, bottom current reworked sands (which include fine to coarse-grained contourites) and gravitational facies (turbidites and mass-transport deposits). These facies associations reflect fluctuations of the background sedimentation, oscillations of the bottom-current velocity and of the frequency of gravity-driven currents. The sedimentary record features cyclic alternations during the Late Quaternary (>99 kyr), suggesting that variations between along-slope bottom currents and down-slope turbidity currents are strongly linked to glacial–interglacial cycles during Marine Isotope Stages 1 to 6. Sedimentary records affected by bottom currents on polar margins, such as those of the Antarctic Peninsula, are essential to decipher the facies and facies sequences of bottom-current deposits, as the low degree of bioturbation throughout most of the sediments allows us to observe the original sedimentary structures, which are poorly preserved in similar deposits from other continental margins.


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Authors: Rodrigues, Sara, Hernández-Molina, Francisco Javier, Hillenbrand, Claus-Dieter ORCIDORCID record for Claus-Dieter Hillenbrand, Lucchi, Renata G., Rodríguez-Tovar, Francisco J., Rebesco, Michele, Larter, Robert D. ORCIDORCID record for Robert D. Larter

On this site: Claus-Dieter Hillenbrand, Robert Larter
1 June, 2022
​Sedimentology​ / 69
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