Geomorphology of the western Ionian Sea between Sicily and Calabria, Italy

Rajasmita Goswami, Neil C. Mitchell, Andrea Argnani, Simon H. Brocklehurst

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    In the westernmost Ionian Sea lies a steep, tectonically active marine basin influenced by turbidity currents generated by terrigenous river input from the adjacent mountains and strong tidal currents propagating through the Strait of Messina. Like many young marine rifts, the basin is lined by steep streams draining the uplifting coasts and supplying sediment across narrow shelves. However, unlike many rifts, this basin is semi-enclosed. The present study explores the seabed morphology and sediment structures in this complex environmental setting, based on multibeam sonar, chirp profiler and seismic reflection data collected in 2006. Offshore channels include many that can be directly linked to onshore streams, suggesting that hyperpycnal flows are important for their formation. Near the Strait of Messina in depths shallower than 400 m, the channels are subdued, plausibly explained as an effect of strong tidal currents. The Messina Channel is characterised by abundant mass-wasting features along its outer bends, particularly on the Calabrian side. Coincidence of the channel course with faults suggests that the channel is structurally controlled in places. The chirp profiles generally show only shallow penetration, the evidence for coarse texture being consistent with the steep gradient of the basin that inhibits deposition from turbidity currents. By contrast, some locally discontinuous mounds exhibiting layered sub-bottom reflectors in the chirp profiles are interpreted as modern levee deposits formed from channelised turbidity current overspill. Overall, this semi-enclosed basin shows little evidence of substantial accumulations associated with modern turbidity current activity, any contemporaneous sediment supply evidently bypassing the area to be deposited in the Ionian Trench; as a consequence, this trench should be an archive of local slope failure and flood events. © 2014 Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalGeo-Marine Letters
    Publication statusPublished - 17 May 2014


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