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