Because of the extensive data base of seismic profiles, radiometric ages, and stratigraphic time markers such as the subaerial Messinian surface, sedimentation rates and Ebro River sediment discharge can be estimated for different periods and environments of the Ebro continental margin. New values for sediment discharge (i.e., 6.2 versus previous estimates of 2-3.5 million t/yr) for the Holocene highstand are more reliable but remain minimum estimates because a small proportion of Ebro sediment advected to the Balearic Rise and Abyssal Plain cannot be accounted for, especially during lowstands. The general highstand conditions of the Pliocene, which were similar to those of the Holocene, resulted in a low discharge of Ebro River sediment (ca. 6.5 million t/yr) and an even thickness of sediment across the margin that deposited at rates of about 24-40 cm/ky. In contrast, sediment supply increased two-three times during the Pleistocene, the margin prograded rapidly and deposition occurred at rates of 101-165 cm/ky on the outer shelf and slope, but basin floor rates remained anomalously low (21-26 cm/ky) because sediment was drained and broadly dispersed eastward in Valencia Trough. During the late Pleistocene rise of sea level, the main depocenters progressively shifted shoreward and sedimentation rates greatly decreased from 175 cm/ky on the upper slope during the early transgression to 106 cm/ky on the outer shelf and then to 63 cm/ky on the mid-shelf during the late transgression as the river sediment discharge dropped to half by Holocene time. Maximal sedimentation rates occurred in active depocenters of sediment dispersal such as the Holocene delta (370 cm/ky) or the youngest Pleistocene Oropesa channel-levee complex (705 cm/ky) where deposition rates increased by an order of magnitude or more compared to average Ebro shelf (38 cm/ky) or base-of-slope rates in the Pleistocene (21 cm/ky). The sedimentation rates verify the importance of sea-level control on the progressive change in location of depocenters and amount of sediment supply, but Pleistocene climatic change and deforestation alone can be observed to double river sediment discharge. The latter observation helps explain the anomalously high deposition rates in Pleistocene turbidite systems compared with older systems that may be controlled more by tectonic and sea-level changes alone. During the past 2000 years, in contrast, man has controlled deposition in the Ebro margin system, first by deforestation that more than doubled river sediment discharge and shelf deposition rates to equal those of Pleistocene time; and second by dam contruction that reduced sediment discharge to less than 5% of the normal Holocene discharge. Similar recent discharge reductions from the Nile and Rhone Rivers suggest that loss of the majority of the river sediment supply in the Mediterranean Sea may result in significant erosion of biologically and agriculturally important lobate delta areas. ?? 1990.
Additional publication details
Estimated post-Messinian sediment supply and sedimentation rates on the Ebro continental margin, Spain