Distributions of major, minor, and trace elements in surface sediment of the continental shelf and upper slope of the northeastern Spanish continental margin reflect the influences of discharge from the Ebro River and changes in eustatic sea levels. Multivariate factor analysis of sediment geochemistry was used to identify five groupings of samples (factors) on the shelf and slope. The first factor is an aluminosilicate factor that represents detrital clastic material. The second factor is a highly variable amount of excess SiO2 and probably represents a quartz residuum originating from winnowing of relict detrital sediments. A carbonate factor (Factor 3) has no positive correlation with other geochemical parameters but is associated with the sand-size fraction. The carbonate in these sediments consists of a mixture of biogenic calcite and angular to subangular detrital grains. Organic carbon is associated with the aluminosilicate factor (Factor 1) but also factors out by itself (Factor 4); this suggests that there may be two sources of organic matter, terrestrial and marine. The fifth factor comprises upper slope sediments that contain high concentrations of manganese. The most likely explanation for these high manganese concentrations is precipitation of Mn oxyhydroxides at the interface between Mn-rich, oxygen-deficient, intermediate waters and oxygenated surface waters. During eustatic low sea levels of the glacial Pleistocene, the Ebro Delta built across the outer continental shelf and deposited sediment with fairly high contents of organic carbon and continental components. The period of marine transgression from eustatic low (glacial) to eustatic high (interglacial) sea levels was characterized by erosion of the outer shelf delta and surficial shelf sediments and the transport of sediment across the slope within numerous canyons. Once eustatic high sea level was reached, delta progradation resumed on the inner shelf. Today, coarse-grained sediment (silt and sand) is transported to the continental shelf by Ebro River and is distributed along the inner shelf by currents generated by dominant northeasterly winds. Clay-size material is deposited on the mid- and outer-shelf. However, erosion and delta progradation during the last glacial period, and fine-grained Holocene sedimentation, have probably produced a distribution of sediment on a diachronous surface. ?? 1990.
Additional publication details
Inorganic geochemistry of surface sediments of the Ebro shelf and slope, northwestern Mediterranean