Modes of development of slope canyons and their relation to channel and levee features on the Ebro sediment apron, off-shore northeastern Spain

Marine and Petroleum Geology

, , and
DOI: 10.1016/0264-8172(87)90009-2



Six submarine slope canyons in an area of the northwestern Mediterranean, offshore from the Ebro River and Delta, were surveyed with bathymetric swathmapping (SeaBeam) and mid-range side-looking sonar (SeaMARC I). All of the canyons have slightly winding paths with concave-upwards gradients that are relatively steep shallower than 1,200 m. Two major types of canyons are identified on the basis of their morphologic character at the base of the slope; Type-I canyons lead to an unchannelled base-of-slope deposit and Type-II canyons are continuous with channel-levee systems that cross the rise. Four Type-I canyons were surveyed in the area. Two of these are broad, U-shaped, steep (average gradients of 1:14), do not indent the shelf, and terminate downslope at debris-flow deposits. These two canyons, the most northern in the area, have rounded heads with extensive gullies separated by knife-edge ridges. Relief of the canyon walls is about equal on both sides of the canyons, although the right-hand walls (looking downslope) are generally steeper. The other two Type-I canyons in the area are similar in that they do not indent the shelf, but they are much smaller and shallower and coalesce before terminating in the base-of-slope region. The two Type-II canyons that feed leveed-channels are U-shaped with flatter floors, longer profiles and gentler gradients than Type-I canyons. They are closer to the Valencia Valley and have relatively small cross-sectional areas. We propose a four-stage evolutionary sequence to explain the development of the canyons observed in this section on the prograding Ebro margin. During the initial stage, slumping and erosion on the slope creates a network of small gullies. During the next stage, headward growth of one (or more) gully leads to a major indentation of the shelf. This is the critical factor for developing a channel that will incise the slope and provide a major conduit for moving sediment to the basin. Stage 3 is characterized by the development of a continuous channel accompanied by levee growth across the lobe. In the final stage, the channel-levee system becomes inactive either through destruction by mass wasting, infilling of the channel, or loss of the major sediment source. ?? 1987.

Additional Publication Details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
Journal Article
Modes of development of slope canyons and their relation to channel and levee features on the Ebro sediment apron, off-shore northeastern Spain
Series title:
Marine and Petroleum Geology
Year Published:
Pages 308, IN1–IN2, 309–319
Larger Work Type:
Larger Work Subtype:
Journal Article
Larger Work Title:
Marine and Petroleum Geology