Factors controlling late Cenozoic continental margin growth from the Ebro Delta to the western Mediterranean deep sea

Marine Geology



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The Ebro continental margin sedimentation system originated with a Messinian fluvial system. This system eroded both a major subaerial canyon cutting the margin southeastward from the present Ebro Delta and an axial valley that drained northeastward down Valencia Trough. Post-Messinian submergence of this topography and the Pliocene regime of high sea levels resulted in a marine hemipelagic drape over the margin. Late Pliocene to Pleistocene glacial climatic cycles, drainagebasin deforestation, and sea-level lowstands combined to increase sediment supply, cause the margin to prograde, and create a regime of lowstand sediment-gravity flows in the deeper margin. The depositional patterns of regressive, transgressive and highstand sea-level regimes suggest that location of the sediment source near the present Ebro Delta throughout the late Cenozoic, southward current advection of sediment, and greater subsidence in the southern margin combined to cause generally asymmetric progradation of the margin to the southeast. Thicker, less stable deposits filling the Messinian subaerial canyon underwent multiple retrograde failures, eroded wide gullied canyons and formed unchanneled base-of-slope sediment aprons in the central margin area; other margin areas to the north and south developed a series of channel-levee complexes. On the basin floor, the formation of Valencia Valley over the Messinian subaerial valley and earlier faults led to draining of about 20% of the Ebro Pleistocene sediment from channel-levee complexes through the valley to prograde Valencia Fan as much as 500 km northeast of the margin. Thus, the Ebro margin has two growth directions, mainly southeastward during higher sea levels, and eastward to northeastward during lower sea levels. The northeastward draining of turbidity currents has produced unusually thin and widely dispersed turbidite systems compared to those on ponded basin floors. During the past few centuries, man's impact has exceeded natural controls on Ebro margin growth. Deforestation of the drainage basin more than doubled the normal Holocene sediment supply, and construction of dams then reduced the supply by 95%. This reduction of the past 50 years has caused erosion of the delta and contamination of bottom sediment because normal Holocene sediment discharge is not available to prograde the delta or help dilute pollutants. ?? 1990.

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Factors controlling late Cenozoic continental margin growth from the Ebro Delta to the western Mediterranean deep sea
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Marine Geology
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Marine Geology
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